Name: Lauren Tanner
Position/Organization/How long: Membership Director for the Obion County Chamber of Commerce since April 2016. We are located in Union City, Tennessee.
How did you get into economic development? Our Chamber of Commerce and Obion County Industrial Development Corporation (OCIDC) are umbrellaed underneath our Joint Economic Development Council (JEDC). Because of this, even though I am technically a chamber employee, I had the opportunity to dip my foot into economic development and have loved it since. There are only 2 paid employees within all 3 of those organizations (our CEO Lindsay Frilling and me), so I am fortunate enough to be involved in every side of Obion County.
What is the best economic development advice you've been given? You have to start earlier in the school systems if you want a strong, long lasting workforce. The main thing that I hear from professionals in our area is that outside of having the product (site ready properties, land, etc.) the biggest issue facing economic development in NW Tennessee is our workforce and lack thereof. Once people graduate high school, they move away to large cities and don't come back. It is vital that we start educating students earlier about economic development, workforce development, and ending the stigma that industrial jobs are "dirty". Students can get a technical degree or learn a trade, and have a full time, well-paying job sooner than most kids that go to a 4 year school. If we can teach our students sooner that there are more career options local and close to home, then maybe they will take advantage of our local technical colleges and implement their talents in our local industry, thus growing our overall population and workforce. There is nothing wrong with getting a 4 year degree, but there is nothing wrong with getting a technical degree either.
What has caught your attention recently in economic development? Economic development isn't just landing the big industrial projects, it's landing small businesses that bring life and uniqueness to your community. It's about making your community a personal experience for everyone that is there. Specifically where we are in Northwest TN, our young talent or "millennial" generation moves away from our area to larger areas after high school (i.e. Murfreesboro, Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville) and don't come back until they are ready to settle down, then they will move back to these smaller areas in their late 20's/early 30's. Because of this, we are having to think of creative ways to bring fresh, new ideas to our communities to make Obion County a desirable place for this generation to move to, move back to, or not even move away at all.
When you have free time, what do you do? I love to be outside. I got married about 2 months ago, so now that it's summer and we aren't planning a wedding anymore, we love to go out on the boat, hang with our pup, and spend time with friends and family.
What are three fun facts about you? 1) I have a degree in Agriculture Communications and did marketing/communications for the largest continuous John Deere dealership in the world prior to working at the Chamber. 2) I collect set lists. 3) I love sports. I'm a huge Cardinals baseball fan & UT fan. And also, I'm originally from Nashville, so can I get a Go Preds?!
What's on your bucket list these days? Go watch Tennessee play in the National Championship this year, but if that doesn't work out I'm good with watching them in December at the SEC Championship (a girl can dream, right? fingers crossed #GBO) Also, I'm hoping to cross a few more states off my bucket list within the next few years.
What motivates you? Passion. I adore my job, but let's be honest, you don't go into the chamber world for the money. You do it because you love it, you love your community, and you know what it can become if you put your passion to good use. I am originally from an interstate town, and with I-69 (which is on its way to completion) coming straight through Obion County, I know the growth that could potentially happen. I love Obion County the way it is, but knowing the potential it has to be even better keeps me going every day. I am ecstatic to see Obion County grow within the next 10 years and am lucky that I get to be a part of it.