Gov. Bill Lee issues executive order on rural development

Gov. Bill Lee’s first executive order calls for accelerated development in Tennessee’s distressed rural counties, a priority he emphasized throughout his campaign for governor.

The executive order requires all state executive departments to provide recommendations for how they can better serve rural Tennessee through a “statement of rural impact.”

Lee, a Republican businessman from Williamson County, was sworn in as Tennessee’s 50th governor.

His office says the order is a first step by his administration to move forward with plans to spur improvements in 15 rural distressed counties in Tennessee, meaning they are among the 10 percent most economically challenged counties in the nation by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which prepares an annual index.

The 22 departments involved in the review have until May 31 to issue their rural impact statements to explain how they serve rural Tennessee. By June 30, each department must release its recommendations for improving service to rural areas.

“My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” Lee said in a statement. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.”

Lee said that “each department has communicated full support” with the plan.

Addressing poverty in rural Tennessee was an issue Lee discussed frequently on the campaign trail.

Specifically, Lee has called for expanding broadband in rural communities to increase economic and educational opportunities, along with investing in high school vocational training and agricultural education and increasing access to healthcare in rural Tennessee.

The 15 distressed counties in Tennessee include: Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Van Buren, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock and Cocke.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Natalie Allison

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit


Published February 1, 2019