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October 16, 2018 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: Ron Hammontree retires “sort of” from TRDA

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a three-part series discussing a transition underway at the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Twenty-two years might seem like a long time to many, but the tenure has been a passion that has kept Ron Hammontree youthful and will continue to do so even after he “somewhat” retired at the end of August from the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency (TRDA).

The engaging and energetic Executive Director has led the economic development agency for most of its existence. Hammontree relinquished the full-time role to Bryan Hall, who has been Director of Economic Development for Monroe County.

“I’ve known Bryan’s family for a number of years, and we have worked hand-in-hand on economic development the last four years,” Hammontree says of his successor. “I knew he was the one to take my place.”

During our recent interview with the two, that great working relationship was clearly on display. One could start a sentence, and the other could finish it.

“I’ll continue to work on special projects about three days a week from my home office,” Hammontree explains, emphasizing that he wants to support his successor in whatever ways he can but not interfere. One of those special projects is a live there, work there concept at this stage, but Timberlake, as it is called, is being actively discussed with appropriate parties.

For those not familiar with TRDA, the agency is responsible for managing and developing the lake areas, campgrounds and the industry around Tellico Lake in Monroe and Loudon Counties. The organization is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors – three each from those two jurisdictions plus three more from neighboring Blount County.

Perhaps the most well-known property TRDA manages is the Tellico West Industrial Park that is home to a number of boat manufacturers such as Brunswick and its Sea Ray brand, Hydra Sports, MasterCraft, and Yamaha.

“We’re the largest marine manufacturing region in Tennessee and one of the four largest in the country,” Hall says, adding that about 4,500 individuals are employed in the park.

That’s not all TRDA does. It manages campgrounds around the lake, issues building permits, and is an overall champion for economic growth in the region. The latter role clearly includes workforce development, something very important to Hammontree.

“We’re in our infancy in terms of development,” he says, while quickly noting that there’s been almost $3 billion in residential and commercial development around the Tellico Lake since TRDA was created by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1982.

He says the economic impact on the county, both in terms of jobs created but also other areas like disposable income and property taxes, has been significant.

So, how did the native of the region become so involved in the development of the areas around Tellico Lake? We’ll cover that topic in Part 2 of this series.

NEXT: TRDA and Hammontree have a strong emphasis on workforce development.

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