In 1959, a group of 8 counties met in San Augustine for the first time to form what was called the Deep East Texas Development Association. At that meeting, the Lt. Gov. of Texas Ben Ramsey, a native of San Augustine served as Master of Ceremonies. Federal District Judge Joe Fisher spoke at the meeting as well. The organization was formed as a non-profit economic development partnership with its main purpose at that time to get roads planned and built into two huge lakes in the East Texas area -- Toldeo Bend Reservoir and what was going to be called McGee Bend Reservoir, later to be named Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The Deep East Texas Development Association was legally established in March 1960.
The 12 counties that DETDA represented initially are the same counties today - Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Tyler, and Trinity. Other counties may be included on specific projects.
Early on the organization operated as a strictly volunteer organization with memberships from Cities, Counties, Private Business and individuals. Bob Bowman of Lufkin gave of his time during many of these years on a volunteer basis to be the administrator of DETDA. With the completion of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 1960 and the subsequent Construction of Toledo Bend on the Sabine River, DETDA began campaigning for new highways, public parks, boat landings and other facilities connected to the lakes.
DETDA was a definite regional force over the years. In 2005, DETDA made a major change in their operations. They decided to become much more active and play a larger part in the economic development of this part of East Texas. In that year, they formed the position of President of DETDA and decided to hire a full time person to head the organization. The purpose of this move was to reflect its broadening emphasis on economic development activities in the area in addition to its goals of promoting East Texas water and timber resources, encouraging new highway construction in the 12 county area, and to develop tourism activities.
The next year, PEP began and extensive program to attract retirees to the area. The 12 counties made a 3 year commitment of $100,000 per year to try to attract retirees to the area through an extensive website, brochures about the area, trade shows, and magazine advertising such publications as Texas Highways and Texas Monthly. The whole campaign was based on luring potential visitors and residents to the area and re-branding the area. So the name of the organization changed in 2007 to The Texas Forest Country Partnership.
Today the Texas Forest Country Partnership is a regional economic development organization that is committed to coordinating economic development-related activities in East Texas and further enhancing the appeal of the 12-county area that it serves.
By bringing together industry leaders, concerned citizens, public officials, and government agencies, TFCP works to advance the following initiatives:
- The promotion of new and expanded primary employer payrolls.
- The development of East Texas as a transportation hub.
- The development of important roads and highways.
- Support in developing a strong tourism industry.
- The development of a strengthened rural health care delivery system.
- The perpetuation and wise use of our natural resources.
- The promotion of strong educational facilities.
- The initiation of an annual economic summit.
- The fair allocation of water resources.
- Representation of East Texas issues in Austin and Washington.