Last week two researchers from the University of Tennessee's Baker Center for Public Policy paid a return visit to Calhoun County to discuss recent progress and explore ideas for the county's future.

The researchers, Dr. Tim Ezzell and Eric Ogle, had previously visited the county to profile it in a study that looked at local economic development efforts across Appalachia.

That study and the teams current work were both funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic and community development.

During their visit Ezzell and Ogle met with a wide range of local officials and stakeholders.

The group discussed a number of important local issues, including the need for jobs, substance abuse, the need for improved mental health services, and problems with local Internet services.

Participants also discussed important local assets, including Calhoun County Park - a facility which could draw tourists for stargazing, camping, and other outdoor activities.

"We are excited to be back in Calhoun County," Ezzell noted, adding that "while the area faces many challenges, it also has tremendous potential."

The researchers will now take the information gathered during the meeting and develop preliminary ideas for local improvements.

They will present these ideas during a return visit to be held in late summer or early fall.

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