By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“There’s no better place to live and work than East Tennessee,” says Brad Maul, the newly named President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency (ETEDA).
The Nebraska native succeeds Allen Neel who held the position for 26 years before retiring at the end on 2020. The mid-December announcement of his appointment can be found here.
For Maul, it’s not only a return to a city where he formerly lived, but to an organization where he also worked when he moved to Knoxville in 2005 to serve as ETEDA’s Director of Business Development. Later, he served as Director of Economic Development for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and held three Nashville-based positions – Target Market Specialist at TVA, Manager – Global Location and Expansion Services with KPMG US, and Director of Economic Development in the Industrial Business Unit at Clayco.
“I’ve seen economic development from various perspectives – local, regional, utility and corporate,” Maul said during a recent interview. “I think that broader perspective and my previous experiences will be valuable in this position and to the communities that we serve.”
ETEDA is a regional marketing organization, promoting the 15-county region that includes robust accessibility thanks to three interstate highways; great quality of life and a low cost of living; and national assets like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TVA, and University of Tennessee.
“We’re the voice for the region,” Maul says. To be effective, he cites the importance of understanding not only what corporates are seeking as they look at regions like East Tennessee into which to expand, but also helping ensure the region’s preparedness as the various communities seek to lure new businesses.
Like any new executive in a position like this one, Maul is spending a lot of time meeting with people, both those with whom he worked in the past and others who are newer in their roles. Maul describes it as a 60- to 90-day listening tour to better understand “the value of what we (ETEDA) do and what we should do moving forward.”
Those meetings are occurring both in-person and virtually, depending on the preferences of the individuals. Since ETEDA represents and serves 15 counties, that is a lot of meetings.
Maul says his focus during the sessions involves learning the answers to several key questions: “Where are we in big picture areas that impact the economic vitality of this region? Where can we provide additional support to our local and regional stakeholders? What I really want to do is listen and determine where this organization can have the most impact.”
As described in the recruiting materials for the position, the ETEDA President and CEO is “charged with developing and implementing a regional marketing strategy that will promote the collective assets of the 15-county Knoxville-Oak Ridge region to corporate decision makers, site selection consultants and other appropriate business development influencers. The CEO will have a solid working understanding of the economic development profession and will bring an ability to work with a private/public sector board and strategic partners. It will be beneficial if the CEO has established relationships with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, TVA’s economic development division, local electric power distributors, and site selection consultants.”
Maul clearly checks those boxes.
“My goal is to assist all 15 counties,” he says. “I’m coming with a spirit of cooperation. I don’t want ETEDA to duplicate but complement. I want to work with the communities and other regional stakeholders to make sure the region is known globally and that we are prepared for future opportunities.”