Joe Woody is an active partner with Clinch-Powell in his role as Knoxville Area Director for Rural Development, but his ties to Clinch-Powell go well back to the 1990s, and he was instrumental in aiding Clinch-Powell’s application to become an Enterprise Community. Our current partnership with Joe and the rest of the Rural Development staff allows us to provide invaluable services to the community, including affordable lending for mortgages, home repairs, and small businesses.
Joe’s very first experience with Clinch-Powell and Executive Director, Lindy Turner (RC&D Coordinator at the time), was in the early ‘90s as a college student. He recalls, “I had met Lindy Turner and done some work for Clinch-Powell RC&D back when I was attending the University of Tennessee. A professor asked if anyone wanted some college credit. All you had to do was weigh recyclable trash at a landfill and write a paper about it. So I show up at the landfill, introduce myself and Lindy puts me to work. And she continues to put me to work now!”
A few years later, in 1999, President Bill Clinton initiated Enterprise Communities for Rural Areas, a program designed to assist communities in stimulating investment and creating jobs as part of a federal-state-local government and private-sector partnership. Financial assistance was provided to awardees over a 10-year period. Clinch-Powell was selected as the fiscal agent and began developing a strategic plan associated with the initiative. Joe was working as a Community Development Specialist for USDA Rural Development during that time and assisting them in the application process and public meetings. He describes watching residents from five counties come together and share their vision for the future as a great experience. In fact, his most memorable experience with Clinch-Powell is when the agency was notified about being named an Enterprise Community. He remembers the time well, “They competed against non-profits and cities from across the nation. A lot of planning, meetings, paperwork, etc. went into the process. The RC&D staff at the time, led by Lindy, was deserving. And in typical fashion, we were eating pizza at 1AM working on the application the day before the application deadline.”
The initiative resulted in more than $195 million in new investments in the Clinch-Powell region including 108 businesses assisted, 2,000+ households given access to public water, new schools, new libraries, new fire trucks and stations, new turnout gear, 124 home rehabilitation projects, and 1,672 local jobs. Additionally, with seed money from the Enterprise Community and motivated by seeing some of the dire housing needs of Appalachia first hand, Clinch-Powell initiated an expansion into the realm of affordable housing.
“[Clinch-Powell’s] involvement in housing has allowed East TN to be a leader within our state concerning the number of loans made each year. Without their partnership, numerous families would not have experienced the dream of homeownership,” said Joe. He believes this success is a result of the relationship between the staff at Clinch-Powell and USDA Rural Development, both going above and beyond for the people they serve. Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This is Joe’s favorite quote, and the perfect way to describe the work that has been done thanks to this partnership.
The staff and board of Clinch-Powell offer our sincerest gratitude to Joe Woody and Rural Development for a long and successful partnership in improving the lives of the people of Tennessee.