Spotlight on Dana Ferguson - Her goal is to see community grow, prosper The McMinn County Economic Development Authority welcomes Dana Ferguson as the new Executive Assistant and Membership Director.

4 Jul 2017

The Daily Post-Athenian
Andy Brusseau Jul 4, 2017

Dana Ferguson is relishing the opportunity to help grow the community she loves.

On Monday, Ferguson assumed the role as executive assistant and membership director for the McMinn County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

An experience in her husband John's hometown of Portland, Tennessee, was a big inspiration for Ferguson to become more involved in economic development. Land owned by her husband's family is very near Interstate 65. As major industries moved to the area, a new exit ramp needed to be developed, and utilizing some of the Fergusons' land was part of the plan. The family became very involved in planning meetings during which land was being annexed. The exposure to a project of this scale was at the core of Ferguson's decision to apply with the EDA.

Ferguson has worked as a general manager at Superior Sanitation for the past four years. She is a Tennessee Wesleyan University (TWU) graduate, with a bachelor's degree in business management. She is currently working toward her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree ,with an emphasis in management. With just two classes remaining, she plans to receive her MBA from TWU in December.

Ferguson knew she was not likely to remain at Superior Sanitation once she earns her MBA.

"God supplied that job when I needed it and it's been wonderful for the past four years," she said, "but I had started thinking, 'What do I want to do?'"

So, when she learned of the open position with the EDA, Ferguson sent EDA Executive Director Kathy Price her r�©sum�©, which led to an interview.

"The interview was wonderful; it was more of a conversation of what she's needing and wanting," said Ferguson. "I left that interview thinking, 'I can do this; I can rock this job.'"

Ferguson and Price are not strangers, having worked together as members of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Price developed a more expanded role for Ferguson than what was previously an administrative assistant position.

"I am excited to have Dana as part of our economic development team. I will be able to use her energy, enthusiasm and skills to further advance our development efforts in McMinn County," said Price. "In addition to her administrative duties, she will head up our membership recruitment and retention, and work on special projects that we will be implementing this year. I will be engaging her with our regional, state and TVA partners to assist me with site proposals to prospective businesses. She is going to be a great asset to our organization, and we are happy to have her on board."

Ferguson's initial goal will be the recruitment of more than 100 new EDA members.

"I'm excited about that because that's what I voluntarily did for the Chamber," said Ferguson. "The stronger the EDA is, the stronger our community can be. That's a big deal for me."

Ferguson believes Athens and McMinn County are on the cusp of becoming the next Cleveland or Maryville in terms of economic development.

"It takes all of us getting together and working toward that common goal and purpose," she said.

Dana and John Ferguson are both graduates of TWU, where John is the junior varsity basketball head coach at the university. Their love for the school and this community is a primary motivator for Dana's interest in expanding employment opportunities in McMinn County.

"I would love to see people who come in and graduate from Wesleyan want to stay," she said. "Sure, a lot of people who are from here and graduate from Wesleyan stay here, but it would be nice to grow Athens with people who weren't born and raised here."

Ferguson noted that the record low unemployment numbers McMinn County is currently experiencing should not deter economic development.

"Why not grow?" she said. "Why can't we create more jobs so people move in?"

She added that industrial growth can benefit small business owners who may not see EDA membership as particularly advantageous.

"If Athens grows, more people are going to need the services and products they provide," she said. "Investing in our EDA really helps everyone grow in a certain capacity."

Ferguson's volunteer work with the Chamber helped guide her toward helping her community see economic growth.

"I think (being an EDA employee) will actually give me that chance to put my professional life into helping Athens and McMinn County," she said. "I would definitely say that my role as a Diplomat with the Chamber of Commerce influenced my interest this type of position."

The expanded scope of her role with the EDA represents a welcome challenge for Ferguson.