Lonnie Lawson introduced to TVC in 2002, helped host major meeting in Somerset a few years later

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles focused on the history of the Tennessee Valley Corridor and its series of Summits. Twenty-five years after the inaugural event in Oak Ridge, the silver anniversary Summit will be a five-part series of 90-minute virtual sessions kicking-off July 16 and continuing for the next four Thursdays.)

Lonnie Lawson is President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, KY, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC).

Established in 1996 through the vision of U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, the Center is a nonprofit organization providing leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life for the citizens it serves. Its programs and services center around four focus areas: public safety, arts and culture, leadership, and technology.

Lawson has been associated with the Center since October 1997 and subsequently served for nearly nine months as Interim Executive Director, General Manager and Business Director before becoming President and CEO in April 2002. We asked him about how he first became connected with the TVC and his observations over time.

“I was first introduced to the TVC in 2002,” Lawson says. “I began attending the annual Summits and was aware of some of what TVC did. Then in 2004 at the Summit in Knoxville, Jerry Rickett, Ewell Baltrip and I met with Darrell (Akins, TVC Executive Director) and began to formulate ideas of how Southern and Eastern KY in Congressman Rogers’ District could become more engaged in the TVC.”

As he attended those early events, Lawson says he was very impressed at the level of engagement from entities all over the southeastern U.S. His involvement increased significantly when Congressman Rogers and the Center hosted TVC’s “Fall Partnership Event” in November 2004. The theme was “Technology: Linking Homeland Security and Hometown Prosperity,” and the keynote speaker was Tom Ridge, then U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

Not surprising, that two-day event is the most memorable among the many TVC activities in which Lawson has participated, but there are others. Of the Somerset session, he says that it “solidified our belief in the value of the TVC.” He also cites the Kingsport Summit as well as those in Huntsville.”

In terms of the organization, Lawson says, “I have been so impressed with the TVC and the impact has been phenomenal. The reach continues to grow, and the network is a great resource for the valley. Over the past three or four years, I have served both on the Board and the Executive Committee of the TVC, and I am a huge supporter of the mission and values of the TVC.”

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