Posted on August 25, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Congressman Bill Jenkins (R-TN) have received letters from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding the new Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) designations for the Tri-Cities. In the letter, OMB acknowledges that the new definitions of statistical areas have raised strong concerns in the Tri-Cities area, as well as in other parts of the country, about their possible impact on local economies. In light of such concerns, OMB announces its intention to provide additional official guidance by September 30 on the administrative and fund allocation uses of the new designations in order to avoid any negative impacts. The OMB letter states that the new Combined Statistical Area (CSA) designation for the region is identical to the Tri-Cities MSA first defined in 1990. Furthermore, the letter indicates that OMB "fully expect(s) that the Combined Statistical Areas will be adopted for regional economic planning and development and will work to ensure that their utility for these purposes is well understood." The letter also makes clear OMB's intent to prevent any use of the new designations for funding allocations that would negatively impact local economies. "I'm committed to making sure that the Tri-Cities region is not in any way harmed by the new definitions," said Frist. "I want to make certain that the combined data for the Tri-Cities continues to be reported and made readily available for economic planning purposes. I also want to be sure that the region does not lose any federal funding as a result of this change. I am pleased that OMB understands our concerns and is working with us to achieve these objectives." "I've heard from concerned Tennesseans about the possible results of MSA changes," said Alexander. "If new rules were applied the wrong way, they could negatively affect federal funding decisions, business location decisions, travel planning, and other economic issues in the region. I will continue to work with Senator Frist, Congressman Jenkins and OMB to ensure these new rules don't adversely affect the Tri Cities." "The Tri-Cities region has always been understood to be one defined area. Our governments work together, roads are shared, an airport is jointly governed, utilities are seamlessly joined, and recreational opportunities are utilized by all. This has been an asset to our region as a whole, and it would be inexplicable not to continue to present economic data that accurately portrays our Tri-Cities region as a collective unit," said Jenkins. "When my office was originally contacted by the OMB about this issue, we were told that new data would have no impact on federal funding for our area. With this new division of MSAs within our understood region, it is becoming clear that there could be a number of issues that could have a detrimental effect on our region. I appreciate the OMB's efforts to hear our concerns, and I look forward to reviewing their additional guidance and clarification on this matter. I will continue to explore all available opportunities to address this matter with Senators Frist and Alexander as we move forward." The letter comes in response to a recent meeting with OMB officials on the establishment of new MSAs and CSAs across the nation. All three offices, and the office of Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), have expressed concern to OMB. The new definitions divide the Tri-Cities region into three separate MSAs instead of one, raising local concerns about possible adverse consequences.