Friday, April 25, 2014 · 3:36 a.m.
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Leaders of Thrive 2055, which is a public-private initiative aimed at plotting the course of growth in the area's 16-county tristate region, have picked four areas of focus for the project's second year. 

Officials said in a news release that they will focus on the following areas:

• Regional economic development, which can help area residents find jobs to provide for their families. Leaders will aim to support the growth of small businesses, work to attract jobs and improve the fiscal health of the community. 

• Regional transportation, which can help area residents spend less time in traffic. Officials also said that focusing on transportation can cut operating costs for businesses in the area and can help tax dollars be spent more efficiently and improve accessibility to area businesses, hospitals, schools and places of employment.

• Education and training so that leaders can encourage lifelong learning and create a talented local workforce, as well as opportunities for businesses and area residents. 

• Natural treasures so that area leaders can best utilize the area's natural resources and ensure the area's legacy of scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, clean water, fresh air and wholesome food, officials said. Officials also said they will promote outdoor tourism. 

These initiatives were approved during a Dec. 5 meeting. 

"These issues received top-priority focus due to several rounds of public input, extensive regional research, as well as much deliberation and discussion by the Coordinating Committee," Dan Jacobson, Thrive 2055 Coordinating Committee chair, said in a prepared statement. "There is a sense of urgency driven by a strong desire to begin action in a meaningful way on these initiatives. We must begin now, and we must work on what is most important."

The Thrive 2055 initiative includes a 16-county region consisting of Jackson and DeKalb in Alabama; Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Murray and Whitfield in Georgia; and Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie in Tennessee.

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