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March 27, 2020 | Tom Ballard

ETEC holds first-ever virtual weekly meeting 47 years after its founding

The East Tennessee Economic Council, better known as ETEC, was founded in 1973 as the Roane Anderson Economic Council. Its mission is simple: (1) supporting the federal government’s missions in East Tennessee; and (2) seeking new ways to create prosperity, promote regional development, and explore opportunities for growth.

Almost every Friday – exceptions include those preceding Monday national holidays, the day after Thanksgiving and the last few weeks of December, anywhere from 75 to more than 200 people gather at the University of Tennessee Outreach Center in Oak Ridge at 7:30 a.m. for a weekly one-hour program.

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted that schedule for two consecutive weeks until ETEC leaders decided to change the nearly five-decade tradition and hold yesterday’s meeting in the virtual world. The session, delivered by Zoom videoconferencing, drew about 150 pre-registrants – members and their official guests – and featured Third District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (pictured at right in a screenshot from the event) who joined from his office in Washington, DC. After a 15-minute discussion about the coronavirus and what was then the pending $2 trillion stimulus spending bill that the U.S. Senate had just passed, the Congressman answered a number of questions from attendees.

Jim Campbell, ETEC President and Chief Executive Officer, said the organization was evaluating other virtual technologies as it adapted to the world of non-gathering in group events that are the hallmark of ETEC until the coronavirus abates.