Helping Roane County is a lost cause. At some point I will update this with a larger chronical to my efforts to improve things here, but not now, this is too depressing. Might turn this into a county memorial, for people to share the stories of how they tried to improve things here only to have assholes hijack or destroy their projects. In short:
The Roane County broadband project I started in February 2017 would have started construction in 2018 and provided gigabit service to almost all of Roane County by 2022, but the RC Economic Development Authority (EDA) and County Commission killed that project just after the first stage of $15M USDA RUS grant funding was lined up (5x $3M blocks, not the 4x $3M in the original plan), in a pathetic power grab when they saw large dollar signs and the political influence that could be gained from leveraging this project for their own benefit. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the idiots who tookover knew nothing at all about broadband so the project quickly failed. This was supposed to be a broadband cooperative, the residents of Roane would have owned and controlled the network, democratically, shared in the costs early on, shared in the profits later on, and decided on upgrades like going from 1 gigabit to 10 gigabit residential service. It also would have been a common carrier, so local in-county cooperative owned & operated services could be provided where that made sense, but people would be free to use other services too (e.g. other internet/gateway, phone/SIP, streaming/IPTV providers). Bandwidth for internal county traffic would be amazing, 10+ gigabit between schools, libraries, community centers, etc. The assumption is each county would build its own network, so multiple dark fiber strands ran to the county line along the 5 major roads This .org website was to be a community development side of that project, since a lot of community organizing was needed and RUS funding required a community center in each block.
Later... In June 2020 a pack of miserable assholes tookover the Roane County Solid Waste Authority. As Chair I had started a series of projects at the Recycling Center to produce various products from recycleables, including a thrift store to replace The Closet (the place that was on Rt 14 across from Hospital Drive) focused on clothing & house wares, an e-waste program for salvaging electronics, used books, salvaged/surplus construction materials, 3D printer filament, 3D printed products, some injection molded plastic products, clean cardboard cut to various sizes for school & office uses, cat scratching boards, perforated cardboard packaging sheets, clean cardboard boxes for low budget reuse, glass bottles crushed into sifted blasting grit, mixed grit glass sand, sifted & mixed size glass cullet, tumbled glass resembling beach glass for mulch, salvaged jars & bottles for home/farm canning & bottling, and more. Think of it like a river of tiny bits of value, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stuff per year, kept in the local economy, or sold online to pull in outside money, or granted to needy families or to community projects, instead of ending up in trash sent to landfills or sent out for recycling with little to no return. There were 7 new jobs expected, probably more in time as it grew, and increasing from mediocre pay to decent pay. But those projects were met with obstruction which prevented progress and later that lack of progress was used to push me out, then end the projects. The County Commission had planned to practically close the recycling center, down to the grant terms minimum of a day a month, and rip off the grant funds & facilities for other uses, fortunately I put an end to that by attracting both public and state govt attention. That didnt stop the grifting though, and it was a feeding frenzy - literally tons of scrap metal, recycling center supplies, grant funds via illegal no-bid contracts awarded to friends & family for recycling center improvements, waste of grant funds on unnecessary stuff approaching waste-fraud-abuse thresholds, buying more machines instead of doing regular maintenance the ones they already had (neglect/waste), using e-waste grant funds to cover collection of old CRT TVs then disassembling them and illegally sending the leaded tubes to landfill, skimming resources for use by personal clubs & friends instead of via creating public programs, grifting donations from local businesses, clean water violations, completely ignoring open meeting laws, changing the bylaws to remove safeguards against theft & corrupt practices. And thats just the abuses I know of, there is bound to be a lot more they have covered up.
Also had a few other failed projects which should have worked with more community and local govt support but just slowly withered away.
An agricultural cooperative to market and support distribution of food from local farms, originally started as a rural economic development project with no realistic expectation of being self-sufficient but left starved of grant funding. This was just sad, a small group of people poured lots of effort into keeping this going, a couple people ignored the rules to exploited it for their own benefit, and most simply did nothing to help. Ultimately I think it needed a structural overhaul, like the Open Food Network model, combined with more defined roles for co-op members, inclusion of more products, heavier overlap with area farmers markets, and more benefits and services to members (even stuff like wifi access points or office desk rental with a PC and printer).
Attempt to start a factory making roll formed sheet metal studs, custom CNC manufacturing, machine shop, and more as the building we were in was renovated to make more usable industrial space available, like an incubator. Failure of this was in part Trump trade policy causing steel prices to jump which made the sheet metal goods business no longer viable, but also retarted local economic development policy. We were in an old horribly decrepid factory building which EDA had neglected maintaining for decades, every time it rained the building flooded, over half the electrical system was shorted out, HVAC rotted out, plumbing rotted out, phone and networking dead, fire alarms dead, almost nothing worked, offices were a moldy festering mess which was toxic to be in without a respirator, raccoons and birds and mice were living inside, warehouse outback was a barely salvageable rust heap. An enormous amount of work and great expense was needed to clean it up and make it minimally usable, in most other counties an EDA would have found grant funding to do this, or granted the building to the company (rent free), but not here, our EDA would not provide funding, just a small discount on rent, which left a hugely unfair burden on a new business startup. By the end I felt this was intentional, that EDA just wanted someone to dump a pile of money into the building then go out of business so the next company to come along would face much higher rent rates. That strategy failed though, because Roane County is a lost cause, no other manufacturing companies are coming here and that building is once again rotting away unmaintained, it is just pathetic. That said, after the sheet metal stud startup died the focus shifted to a new concrete countertop startup and an asshole partly responsible for my broadband project failing got involved, so I just got out of it. In retrospect, I might have been able to work harder on the CNC manufacturing, machine shop, and maybe spin-offs from projects killed off by the new assholes at the Solid Waste Authority, or other stuff to help keep this business going, but I felt a little betrayed and like this was hopeless, so I did not make the effort. No regrets though, by mid 2020 I was burned out and it was damn nice to not be worried about keeping so much stuff going, but it was also very sad.