As Graves County was about to get word of its first COVID-19 case, Wendy Puckett was settling into her new role as vice president with Graves County Economic Development.
Formal introductions to local business and industry leaders would have to wait, though, as she immediately took on the task of communicating needed information to GCED partners.
“She was able to fill an integral role for the organization, heading up communications with local industry and keeping everyone informed on webinars and programs,” said GCED President Ryan Drane. “She was able to come in and add value from day one to our organization and we’re really excited to have her as part of the team.”
Puckett said working during the current pandemic has still afforded her an opportunity reach out to local leaders in a time of need with any help regarding available grants, information on workplace safety and human resources guidance.
“Really trying to be an outreach for the organization and, of course being new, it was a way to get introduced to everybody and say we’re here; if we can be of assistance, we’d be glad to do so, and if we don’t know the answer we can point them in the right direction,” she said. “It’s different, being basically quarantined at home and trying to find various resources, but that’s part of pivoting and being able to shift and be as useful as possible to our community.”
Puckett is a Graves County native who graduated Fulton High School and the University of Tennessee at Martin. Her experience has been in marketing, particularly in areas of agriculture and education.
She previously served as executive director for an economic development partnership between Fulton County and Hickman County. There, she worked on business retention and expansion efforts, as well as entrepreneurial initiatives.
“Working with those two counties translates into Graves County by bringing that background and knowledge base, and also being familiar with a lot of resources in in the region, in general, along with having built relationships with crucial partners.”
Those partners include TVA and Commonwealth of Kentucky economic development leaders.
“She has connections at the local, state and federal levels, which is extremely important,” Drane said. “We weren’t starting from scratch. She already knows the process. She knows Graves County.”
And knowing the county and its communities is another plus, Puckett said, because Graves County Economic Development is a community effort.
“A lot of pieces of the puzzle have to come together, and I think Graves County has demonstrated that in the past and I think we’ll continue to do so,” she added. “This county has a lot of resiliency and vibrancy that people pick up on. After this pandemic, I think you’ll see a revival of manufacturing in rural America and I think there will be a lot of opportunities for us to capture.”