Debate to focus on hometown concerns foremost for Tennesseans

Highlands debate focuses of relevant issues 

As the Highlands, Tennessee Tech University, WTVF NewsChannel5, and the Tennessee League of Women Voters prepare for the Highlands Town Hall Debate 2010 on Sept. 14 in Cookeville, a just-released statewide poll shows that rural voters are anxious to hear what the candidates for governor will do to create jobs in their hometowns and generally feel that state government has focused too much on large economic development projects at the expense of small business growth.

According to the poll, which was commissioned by the Tennessee Newspaper Network and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, 54 percent of Tennesseans believe that improving the economy and creating jobs are the most-important issues currently facing state government.

"I've just heard [the candidates] say they are going to work to keep jobs in Tennessee," Adam Young, a soil technician in Friendship in Crockett County, told The Tennessean, "but they haven't told me how. People want to know how they're going to do that."

In follow-up reporting, Heather Nackel, a resident of Linden in Perry County, told NewsChannel5 she wants the candidates to be questioned on economic issues, not hot-button social issues. "Are there going to be more jobs, are they going to do anything to help that? Just questions like that," she said.

Candidates will have the opportunity to address these hometown issues at the Highlands Town Hall Debate 2010. The debate will give focus to hometown issues facing Tennessee's rural and suburban areas, with an emphasis on economic development, education and health care.

Hosted by Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, the debate will be broadcast from 7-8:00 p.m. central time on NewsChannel5.

"Our candidates for governor should hear firsthand about the challenges facing these voters and begin to formulate plans to address those challenges," said George Halford, president/chief executive officer of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce and a Highlands partner. "A one-size-fits-all approach won't work in governing Tennessee. Our rural and suburban areas require different tactics to meet their needs."

Rural Tennesseans agree. With unemployment hovering in double figures and large employers leaving small towns across the state, many are calling for an increased emphasis on aid to small businesses.

"I feel like a lot of small businesses are being overlooked," Sonny Barrett, owner of Seat's Studio in Lebanon in Wilson County, told The Tennessean. "It seems like everybody tends to go more to the bigger guy."

For the Highlands Debate, Tennesseans will have the opportunity to submit questions to the candidates for governor in writing or via YouTube videos. The candidates will also be given a chance to ask each other questions.

The Tennessee Newspaper Network poll was conducted July 19-21 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. Having surveyed 625 registered Tennessee voters, it has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

The Highlands is a regional public/private sector initiative between Overton, Putnam and White counties. Launched in 2006, the program has achieved several economic development successes due to unprecedented levels of collaboration and regional cooperation among community leaders.



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