Clay County - Community Comprehensive Plan

Clay County, Tennessee
Dale Hollow

Clay County, situated on the Cumberland Plateau, is best known for its premier location on Dale Hollow Lake that provides abundant outdoor recreation and tourism commerce. The county seat of Celina is an old-time river town and was once one of the main stops between Kentucky and Nashville on the Cumberland River in the steamboat era. The county’s abundant natural resources and historic town center provide many tourism and downtown development opportunities. Clay County leaders recognized the value of these assets and saw the opportunity to do more to benefit from their community’s potential.

In 2008, the Clay County TNECD ThreeStar Program began and soon county leaders realized that the creation of lasting county-wide change could be better accomplished in accord with a well thought out plan of action to guide use of state and federal funds and technical assistance resources. Local economic and community development leaders also saw the potential to focus their efforts through a coordinated leadership development strategy.  

In 2015, funding from the county’s TNECD ThreeStar grant was used as seed money to obtain a larger grant from USDA Rural Development for the community to work with the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCCD) to complete a plan. In 2016, UCDD staff worked with Clay County officials and Joint Economic Community Development Board (JECDB) leaders to conduct a study resulting in a comprehensive long-range strategic plan that now serves as the road map for the various boards, commissions, councils and committees that once worked independently.

In February of 2017, the JECDB adopted the Clay County Community Comprehensive Plan that addresses eighteen topic areas ranging from Parks and Recreation to Aging to Industrial Development. Each section contains goals and objectives, evaluation measures and assigned organizations responsible for implementation. The plan also provides the basis for community leadership education and a call to action for coordination among different bodies in the community.

The Clay County JECDB accepted responsibility for oversight of the plan and delegated leadership to the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and ThreeStar Program for its execution. Executives and committees from both organizations work jointly to implement specific goals and objectives, obtain funding for specific projects and evaluate accomplishments. They were also tasked with the mission to keep the various groups on target and to recommend adjustments as appropriate. The UCDD was asked to complete annual evaluations and provide progress reports to the JECDB and county and city government.  It is the goal of the Chamber and the ThreeStar program to accomplish a least 80% of the recommendations in the first four years and have the UCDD come back and update the plan at the 50% completion point.

Community and Economic Impact

The Clay County Comprehensive Community Plan provides the basis for a coordinated economic and community development program for Clay County. Since adoption in 2017, Clay County has obtained over $260,850 in external and leveraged local funding and in-kind resources for plan implementation.

Clay County has benefitted greatly from the process and developed new leadership assets in persons and organizations that are successfully implementing annual goals and objectives. First year focus areas, leadership assignments, goals, and accomplishments by selected plan elements include

Leadership Development

Leadership Entities: Chamber of Commerce and ThreeStar Committees

Goal: Clay County enjoys the benefits of an actively engaged citizen task force focused on progressively shaping the community’s future.

Accomplishments: Clay County has JECDB, ThreeStar Committee and Chamber of Commerce executive leadership in place to support implementation; Clay County has recognized and recruited citizens to serve in community and volunteer leadership roles; designated leaders have identified, championed and implemented a variety of community projects effecting positive change; Worked with the local Lions Club to lead the LEO youth leadership program.


Leadership Entity: Chamber of Commerce

Goals: Clay County marketing strategies convey a consistent message; Clay County is an intriguing, unique and memorable destination; Clay County owns a grassroots developed brand that continually increases citizen engagement and community pride; Clay County is recognized as a premiere location for business and industrial investment.

 Accomplishments: Enhanced and updated the Clay County Chamber of Commerce website; created community events calendar; began marketing internships.

Downtown Development

Leadership Entity: ThreeStar Celina Downtown Revitalization Committee

Goals: Continue TNECD Tennessee Downtowns Program involvement and revitalization efforts in Celina, including the ongoing improvements of downtown facades and buildings; utilize the Main Street Four Point Approach: Design, Promotion, Organization, and Economic Vitality.

Accomplishments: Received a $100,000 2018 TNECD Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) in 2018 to continue building improvements that leverages $40,000 of past TNECD façade grants and over $100,000 in private investments.

Historic Preservation

Leadership Entity: ThreeStar Historic Preservation Committee

Goals: Clay County is a must-see destination for heritage tourism travelers; Clay County enjoys a citizenry educated about and proud of its heritage and culture.

Accomplishments: Worked with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Center of Historic Preservation (CHP) Professional Services Partnership to complete research for the Clay County Courthouse Celina, Tennessee Heritage Development Plan as well as to identify the most important sites and recognize former citizens, cultural traditions  and the role of Celina as an early Cumberland River Town; created a new brochure, guided tour and new historical markers with the help of the Clay County High School faculty and students; completed an architectural analysis of the Clay County Courthouse leading to grant funding to repair electrical wiring as a first step in implementation of courthouse study recommendations.

Industrial Development and Recruitment/Agriculture Business

Leadership Entity:  Industrial Development Board and Chamber of Commerce

Goals: Clay County prospers economically through industrial development; Clay County is a competitive environment for industrial recruitment.

Accomplishments: Listed available properties by sending information and hosting visits for TVA, TNECD and regional marketing partners; recruited two new industries to Clay County between 2015 and 2018; helped to secure $36,250 Agriculture Enterprise Grant to upgrade GF Hardwoods dry kilns and loading processing equipment in the Moss community.


Leadership Entity: Clay County Senior Citizens Center and ThreeStar Retiree Committee

Goals: Clay County is a livable community for senior citizens; Clay County is an attractive retiree destination; Local healthcare providers adequately serve the aging community. 

Accomplishments: Staff  professional development to learn about new activities and methods; Clay County Commission adopted residential building codes to insure appropriate housing for elderly residents; developed new programs catering to the elderly population including a Tennessee Arts Commission grant to increase retirees and senior citizens art classes recreation opportunities and enrichment.

Project Funding

TOTAL COMMUNNITY COMPREHENSIVE LONG-RANGE PLAN DEVELOPMENT (USDA Rural Development Grant for Upper Cumberland Development District services ) $10,000
TNECD ThreeStar Grant (ThreeStar Committee capacity and leadership development) $25,000
Tourism and Marketing Projects (2018 Chamber of Commerce $1,000 and TDTD Tourism Marketing Grant $5,000 for website development, calendar of events, Retire Clay brochure, advertising)         $6,000
Tennessee Downtowns Façade Improvement Grant (2018 TNECD Façade Improvement Grant for paint, awnings, windows, doors, signs installations) $100,000
Tennessee Department of Health Diabetes Community Planning Grant (2018 Downtown Connectivity/ Master Planning) $50,000
Historic Preservation Projects (MTSU Center for Historic Preservation Clay County Courthouse Heritage Development Plan Development In-kind  and Professional Services Partnership for displays $5,000; Tennessee Historical Commission Historic Preservation Fund Grant $7,800 and Preservation Committee Match $4,800; Clay County High School Vocational Agriculture In-kind; Tennessee Arts Commission Grant $8,000 for preservation planning, technical assistance, courthouse wiring, historical markers, courthouse interpretative displays, courtroom event venue updates) $25,600
Agriculture Enterprise Fund Grant (Clay County Chamber and Industrial Development Board In-kind Contributions, TN Department of Agriculture Agriculture Enterprise Fund Grant $36,250 for equipment improvements) $36,250
Aging and Retirees Arts Enrichment Project (Tennessee Arts Commission Grant $8,000, Clay County Senior Citizens Center In-kind Contribution) $8,000
TOTAL COMMUNITY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN IMPLEMENTATION FUNDING (Projections for state and federal grant funding, local government investments, private contributions ) $250,850

Project Leaders and Partners

Clay County ThreeStar Program – Project Contact
Clay County Chamber of Commerce – Project Contact
Clay County
City of Celina
Clay County Industrial Development Board
Celina Downtown Revitalization Committee
Clay County High School Vocational Agriculture
Clay County Health Department
Clay County Healthier Tennessee Committee
Clay County Senior Citizens Center
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
United States Department of Agriculture –Rural Development
Upper Cumberland Development District
Middle Tennessee State University - Center for Historic Preservation
Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
Tennessee Historical  Commission
Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Tennessee Department of Health
Tennessee Arts Commission
Tennessee Valley Authority
Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association
US Army Corps of Engineers

For project contact visit the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and Clay County ThreeStar Program./


TNECD ThreeStar Program

The ThreeStar Program is designed to focus on the Governor’s Five Pillars of Jobs & Economic Development, Fiscal Strength & Efficient Government, Public Safety, Education & Workforce Development and Health & Welfare, all identified as critical to ensuring the success of Tennessee communities. ThreeStar grants help communities increase their economic and community development impact through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016 and 2017.  

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.