Economic & Community Development

The SWTDD is designated by the Federal Government as an Economic Development District to provide assistance to communities in planning and facilitating economic and community development projects. We provide a comprehensive plan for development activities throughout our eight county region. The staff collects, analyzes and disseminates statistical/demographic information. The staff also provides technical expertise, conducts surveys, and prepares studies in support of local infrastructure improvement projects and environmental protection issues. In addition, the ECD staff administers and manages grant funds for communities.

Grant Programs

Community Development Block Grants

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the CDBG program is designed for communities not receiving funding directly from HUD.  To qualify, projects must meet one of three objectives: Benefitting persons of low or moderate income; Elimination or prevention of slums or blight; or Elimination of conditions detrimental to health, safety, or public welfare. Grants can be used for (1) water/sewer lines and systems (to improve, extend, or expand or to address a condition that is detrimental to health, safety or public welfare);  (2) housing in targeted neighborhoods with substandard or dilapidated housing and community facilities in LMI neighborhoods; (3) community livability enhancements like rural fire protection, primary healthcare related to health and safety, and for other projects that benefit persons of low to moderate income (like siren systems, fire vehicles, etc.)

CDBG-CV Childcare Creation Program Sub-Application

For more information about a CDBG, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Delta Regional Authority Grants (DRA)

This program is designed to improve public transportation, transportation infrastructure, business development, and job training for counties in the Delta Region. The Delta Regional Authority has invested more than $119 million and leveraged $2.7 billion in public and private funds in communities across the region. These investments target economic development in numerous sectors and industries that support a strong economy for our communities.

For more information about DRA grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)

This state funded program focuses on improving the ability for elementary and middle school aged children to walk and bike to school, while also decreasing the amount of pollution and vehicular traffic near schools.  SRTS is intended to fund the planning, development, and implementation of infrastructure projects, along with education and outreach for the community.

For more information about Safe Routes to School grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Tennessee Transportation Enhancement Grant

This grant is for infrastructure improvement projects relating to surface transportation.  The project must also fall in one of twelve transportation-related categories ranging from historic preservation to the creation of bike trails to the improvement landscaping and beautification.  

For more information about Tennessee Transportation Enhancement grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG)

This grant is designed to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and non-affiliated medical service organizations.  Equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, and training are all elements that can be funded with this grant.

For more information about Assistance to Firefighters grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program (FIDP)

Applications must be for specific projects to create or retain a defined number of jobs.  Projects must involve companies engaging in manufacturing or other economic activities beneficial to the state or companies for whom at least 50% of the product or service is involved in the manufacture of products for export.  These grants require matching funds that are determined by a community’s ability to pay.

For more information about FastTrack grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program (FTJAP)

This program is available to new and expanding industry to develop a training plan concerning the number of employees to be hired and the training and skills they need.  Companies will track the cost of the training program’s implementation and submit that to the state for reimbursement.

For more information about FastTrack Training grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Local Parks and Recreation Grants (LPRF)

The LPRF grant is available to local governments for the purchase of lands for parks, natural areas, greenways, and recreation facilities.  Funds may also be used for capital projects and trail development in parks, natural areas and greenways.  At least 60% of funds will go to the municipal governments. Grants are a 50/50 match.

For more information about LPRF grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Recreational Trails Program (RTP)

This program provides funding for the land acquisition, construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of trails and trailhead support facilities.  The funds are distributed as an 80% grant with a 20% match.  All projects must be on publicly- owned land.

For more information about RTP grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Community Oriented Policing (COPS)

COPS is responsible for advancing the practice of community policing in the nation’s state, local, territory, and tribal law enforcement agencies. One method in doing so is through the COPS Office Grant Programs and Funding in the areas of the COPS Hiring Program, Child Sexual Predator Program, and the Secure Our Schools Program.

For more information about COPS grants, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Governor's Highway Safety Office (GHSO)

GHSO works in tandem with the National Highway Safety Administration to implement programs focusing on occupant protection, impaired driving, speed enforcement, truck and school bus safety, pedestrian and bicycle safety and crash data collection and analysis.  Programs administered by the Governor's Highway Safety Office are 100% federally funded.

For more information about GHSO grants, contact Shelton Merrell at 731-668-6430.

USDA Rural Development

USDA Rural Development is the leading advocate for rural America. The mission area supports rural communities and enhances quality of life for rural residents by improving economic opportunities, community infrastructure, environmental health, and the sustainability of agricultural production. Program assistance is provided in many ways, including direct or guaranteed loans, grants, technical assistance, research and educational materials. USDA has grant programs for Business and Cooperative Grant Assistance, Housing and Community Facilities Grants, and Utilities Grants.

For more information on USDA grant opportunities, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.


Regional Planning Services

“Smart Development” Planning is a term that was coined by SWTDD to better describe the district’s view of the regional coordination of economic and community development projects that are economically and environmentally sustainable and of projects that are grounded in data-based decision models.

Developed in response to the State of Tennessee’s focus on regionalism and rural stewardship, Smart Development helps address the growing concern that diminishing population growth trends will create new challenges and that communities should seek to identify new ways to enhance quality of life issues, strengthen their economic fabric, improve public health and protect their natural resources.

Strategic Planning

Specific problems require specific solutions that are specific to a location.  One size does NOT fit all. SWTDD offers assistance to its communities in identifying potential changes to a municipality.  These changes may include: urban growth boundaries; annexation areas and accompanying studies; street improvement plans; county growth plans; and rural fire protection plans.

SWTDD positions its communities to take full advantage of improved service delivery methods and of mutually beneficial partnerships. This regional perspective enhances collaborative opportunities and leverages the collective resources at the district’s disposal.

Long Range Planning

Comprehensive Planning is critical to the SWTDD region.  Since no community is an island, it is important that communities understand their role and the benefits of participating in a regional view of social, cultural, educational, demographic and economic issues facing them and their neighbors.  SWTDD provides assistance with Land Use and Planning Services, Infrastructure Planning, Capital Planning, and Budgeting.

Technical Assistance is provided on a contractual basis to both counties and municipalities. Regional Planners visit the community many times during the month and provide professional advice to elected officials regarding how best to legally chart development goals; planning commissions regarding site plan reviews, zoning text amendments or zoning map amendments (rezoning requests) and subdivision regulations and subdivision text amendments.  In addition, Regional Planners often advise the board of zoning appeals on requests for variances.

2017 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)

Community Enhancement

Each year, SWTDD provides each of our communities with educational programs to fulfill legal requirements for continuing education.  Training topics range from the history of planning services in Tennessee, to specific topics such as the legal constraints of a sign ordinance.

SWTDD has the tools and expertise to assist local governments with the visual and analytical tools afforded by GIS. This computer-based mapping and data analysis service often provides a spatial perspective to a community’s vision.  In addition, mapping services provide commissioners with the environmental context affording them the tools to make better decisions.

Program and Community Evaluation

Each year, SWTDD provides each of our communities with a development report that details the direction, training and actions of the planning commission, the board of zoning appeals and the appropriate city board actions. The purpose of this report is to give a public accounting of SWTDD’s services. At the same time, a Program Design is presented to the Planning Commission that includes the opportunity to "plan" their next year’s activities. In essence to "Plan their work and work their plan."

For more information on SWTDD’s planning services, contact Shelton Merrell at 731-668-6430.

Solid Waste Planning

The State of Tennessee’s Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 requires that each county in the state address solid waste planning issues as a single-county region or as part of a multi-county region.  Within the SWTDD, the counties of Decatur, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison are single-county planning regions while Chester, Hardin, McNairy, and Wayne counties (Wayne County being a part of the South Central Tennessee Development District) comprise the Shiloh Solid Waste Planning Region.  The SWTDD contracts with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Division of Solid Waste Management to provide a variety of technical assistance services to its counties on solid waste planning.

For example, each county is required to file a Solid Waste Annual Progress Report (APR) with TDEC every March 31.  APRs address such issues as local solid waste collection systems; solid waste disposal systems (landfills and incinerators); local funding for solid waste programs and activities; recycling, composting, source reduction, and diversion activities; solid waste education programs; disposal of problem wastes such as used tires, automobile fluids, used paint, etc. The SWTDD staff prepares APRs for three counties and reviews APRs for content for the other counties.

Solid Waste Needs Assessments

The Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 requires that a Solid Waste Needs Assessment be conducted for each county at least once every five years.  Needs Assessments are independent analyses of all local conditions that might affect the local solid waste system including population increases or losses; increased or reduced economic activities; support for solid waste collection and disposal systems; evaluation and projections of the solid waste stream; and needs and recommendations for solid waste programs. 

Tennessee Solid Waste Directors Association

SWTDD serves as host organization for the West Tennessee Group of the Tennessee Solid Waste Directors Association. The West Tennessee Group meets quarterly and participants attend from the three development districts in West Tennessee plus other members from Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. Topics for discussion cover a wide variety of solid waste issues including proposed State legislation updates, new TDEC directives, recycling activities, used tires programs, solid waste directors’ educational opportunities, etc.

For more information about the solid waste services provided by SWTDD, contact Teresa Sanders, or 731-668-6428.


The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) was created in 1996 to monitor federal, state, and local government interactions and to make recommendations for local infrastructure improvements to the Tennessee General Assembly. TACIR contracts with each of the nine development districts in Tennessee to compile and update information on major infrastructure and public school projects within each district. The inventories include all active projects and all planned projects anticipated in the district for the next 20 years.

In a typical year, SWTDD staff reviews and updates information on a hundreds of projects for the eight counties, 35 cities, and 79 public schools within the SWTDD. For example, the total number of TACIR projects for Inventory Year 2014 was 667.

For more information about TACIR, contact Melissa Davis at 731-668-6417.

Executive Order 12372, National Environmental Policy Act, and Other Environmental Assessments

Under Executive Order 12372 implemented by 40 CFR Part 29, SWTDD reviews activities proposed for funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for local concerns regarding agency needs, plans, and priorities. SWTDD also reviews proposed projects for local environmental impacts under the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act for such agencies as the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the USDA Rural Development/Rural Utility Service, among others.

Historic Preservation

Each year, Southwest Tennessee Development District executes a contract with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Historical Commission to provide professional services relation to the preservation of historic resources within the SWTDD region of Tennessee (Chester, Decatur, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Madison and McNairy counties).

SWTDD historic preservation services include National Register nominations, Section 106 reviews, assistance with historic zoning commissions and certified local governments (CLGs), grant writing for the Federal Historic Preservation Grant, historic surveys, and regional historic preservation planning outreach and training.

Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places - The official listing of historic places (generally 50 years old) that are worthy of being preserved is called the National Register of Historic Places.  Buildings, districts, sites, structures, and objects that are determined to be significant with respect to history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture, make the National Register.  SWTDD assists with compiling and synthesizing required documentation, maps, and photographs to develop nominations.  After that, the Tennessee Historical Commission State Review Board then considers the nomination and makes a recommendation to the Department of Interior.

Preservation Tax Incentives - The owner of an income-producing, historic building is eligible to receive a federal tax credit of up to 20% of the cost of renovation if they restore the building in accordance with the National Park Service’s standards.  SWTDD promotes awareness of this program and provides information concerning eligibility and the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines for rehabilitation and restoration.

Federal Preservation Grants - Each year, federal funds are available to each state for local historic preservation projects.  These funds are used for architectural, archeological, or historic surveys; preservation planning studies; preparation of National Register of Historic Places nominations; restoration planning or restoration of historic properties.  Project proposals from throughout Tennessee must compete for funding.  SWTDD assists with preparation and submission of applications.

Certified Local Government Program - Local governments that meet certain criteria, including establishment of a historic zoning commission and passing a historic preservation ordinance, receive the designation of “Certified Local Government” or CLG.  With this designation, a local government is eligible to receive technical assistance from the staff of the Tennessee Historical Commission, and the chance of selection for Federal Preservation Grant funding are improved.  SWTDD works with historic zoning commissions, promotes training opportunities, and provides information concerning the CLG program.

Historic Surveys – Each year SWTDD surveys local historic resources through a comprehensive written and photographic record compiled in county surveys.  The staff of the Tennessee Historical Commission is working to have county survey data available on the internet.

Tennessee Resources:

Tennessee Historical Commission (THC)

THC State Programs

State Historic Sites
Historic Markers Program
Tennessee Wars Commission
Tennessee Historic Cemetery Preservation Program

THC Federal Programs

National Register
Preservation Grants
Federal Historic Tax Credit Program
Section 106 Review
Local Government Assistance
Survey of Historic Resources

Tennessee’s Historic Preservation Plan
Certified Local Government Newsletter – Sign Up Form

National Resources:

National Register of Historic Places
Technical Preservation Services
Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation
Preservation Trust Toolkit
Preservation Briefs

For assistance and more information, contact Tom Skehan at or 731.668.6429.

Tennesse Housing Development Agency (THDA)

As the State's housing finance agency, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) is a self-sufficient, independently funded, publicly accountable entitiy of the State of Tennessee. THDA's mission is to ensure that every Tennessean has access to safe, sound, affordable housing opportunities. More information about THDA programs can be found online at

THDA CAPER Public Notice

THDA Homeownership

THDA's Great Choice Loan Program offers 30-year, fixed rate mortgages and downpayment assistance to eligible firsttime, repeat and military homebuyers. Borrowers must meet certain requirements and conditions, including credit history, income limits and cost of home. is Tennessee’s free housing locator. It is free for landlords to list housing, and free for tenants to search for housing. Affordable (income based and properties) and market rate properties, including those that accept Housing Choice Vouchers, may be found on the site. The service is ADA Title II 508 compliant; works with assistive technology; uses Google to translate content into almost 100 languages. For those needing additional listing or search assistance, a toll-free, bilingual call center is available.

Additional Homeownership Links

Homeownership for the Brave

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the Single Family Help Desk at 615-815-2100 or

THDA Community Programs

The Community Programs Division administers a variety of housing programs supported through federal, state and THDA funding. The Division awards grants to local governments and non-profit agencies to meet the housing needs of low income Tennesseans.

THDA Programs

THDA Rental Programs

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) or "Voucher" Program is a federal rental assistance program funded through HUD where very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled receive assistance to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. As a state housing agency, THDA administers the Housing Choice Voucher program in 72 Tennessee counties, between 4 regional offices.

For more information, please contact Rental Housing Programs at 615-815-2164.

THDA Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program

The Low-income Housing Tax Credit is a credit against federal income tax liability each year for 10 years for owners and investors in low-income rental housing. The amount of tax credits is based on reasonable costs of development, as determined by THDA, and the number of qualified low-income units.

THDA Research and Planning

For statewide and county-based information about housing and housing affordability, the THDA Research and Planning Division has multiple resources to gain insight into the state’s housing market.

Rural Planning Organization (RPO)

SWTDD’s Rural Planning Organization is operated under a grant funded 80% by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and 20% by SWTDD. The RTPO Coordinator acts as a liaison between local officials and the public in seven (7) of the eight (8) counties (Madison is a Metropolitan Planning Organization) of SWTDD to identify multi-modal transportation needs; to consider various transportation needs for study and evaluation; and, to make subsequent recommendations to the state about prioritization for funding consideration.

Tennessee Department of Transportation has established twelve Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) for enhanced service and development of rural transportation projects across the state. The Southwest RPO consists of all counties in the Southwest service area except Madison County. The formation of the RPOs enables local officials, community leaders, and citizens to voice their opinions on all current projects (highway, rail, public transit, air, water/port, and bike/pedestrian).

If you have concerns or questions on transportation, contact SWTDD’s  RPO coordinator,  Shelton Merrell at 731-668-6430.

Town of Bethel Springs, TN - Request for Proposals (RFP)

Tennessee Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Rural Transportation
National Transportation Operations Coalition

Rural Planning Initiative (RuPI)
Southwest TN RuPI Overview Application

Small Business Loans

Intermediary Relending Program

The Intermediary Relending Program was established to promote and encourage projects that help to diversify the economic base of our eight-county district. By retaining, expanding and creating private sector employment opportunities, the SWTDD assists the district’s economic environment. The IRP program is funded through USDA Rural Development using federal funding. The SWTDD currently manages three (3) IRP programs. The IRP 1 program was funded for $1,845,000, the IRP 2 program was funded for $350,000, and the IRP 3 program funded for $750,000.

For more information, contact Teresa Sanders at 731-668-6428.

Revolving Loan Fund

The Revolving Loan Fund is funded through the Economic Development Administration to develop a local business strategy that enables the community to invest in local manufacturing opportunities, encouraging the creation, retention, and expansion of local resources and jobs. The RLF program was funded for $750,000.

For more information, contact Teresa Sanders at 731-668-6428.


SOAR (Strategic Opportunities to Advance our Region)

In 2015, Southwest Tennessee Development District created and began offering the SOAR program to each county in its region. SOAR is an economic preparedness program designed to assist rural communities in evaluating, planning, and implementing strategies for economic sustainability. It’s four-pronged approach that utilizes local leadership in developing a customized asset-based strategy for success. Several SWTDD counties are in the midst of utilizing the SOAR program to improve their communities and to create a personalized, commonly-held, and cooperatively developed roadmap to economic success.

To learn more about the SOAR program, contact Joe Barker or call 731-668-7112.