Commission Continues To Explore Job Creation

Huntsville, TN (2010-03-01) With unemployment numbers still on the rise, and layoff looming in the coming months, the Scott County Commission is continuing to work with the State of Tennessee to improve the jobs outlook.

During the February 16th meeting of the full County Commission, the body voted to send a letter to Governor Phil Bredesen, seeking his aid in creating a jobs stimulus package for the County, similar to other initiatives taken by Bredesen and Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley in other counties with high unemployment woes. County Mayor Rick Keeton Monday night reported that he had spoken to State Representative Les Winningham and State Senator Ken Yager, as well as Neely, about the issue, and have heard nothing official as yet. Commissioner Paul Strunk proposed drafting a plan to present to the State, rather than merely asking for the Governor to help. “It would be better to hand them a plan we have created and ask for financial assistance,” Strunk said.

Last year, the state proposed closing the local Workforce Development office, forcing unemployed persons to travel to apply for benefits. After intervening with Neeley, Keeton was able to keep the local office open with a reduced workforce, with the county providing the office space and equipment necessary. With the third highest unemployment rate in the State and more layoff pending, Keeton’s suggested now is the time to approach the State about reopening the office full time. “With our unemployment situation, we need that office five days a week now,” Keeton stated.

On Monday morning, county leaders, along with representatives from the Tennessee Department of Economic Development, East Tennessee Development District, Industrial Development Board of Scott County, the Mayors of Oneida and Winfield, officers of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, Roane State Community College, Tennessee Technology Center, USDA Rural Development, County Technical Advisory Service, Municipal Advisory Service, and representatives from First National Bank, First Trust and Savings Bank, Citizens First Bank and People’s Bank of the South, met to discuss job creation and economic recovery strategies for Scott County.  During the meeting, Keeton, who led the discussion, outlined the projects underway in Scott County, while State officials spoke of the numerous businesses and financial resources available to local businesses, both existing and planned.  Strunk, who likewise attended the conference, remarked, “They will support anything we want to do, but we have to be the ones to do it. They can’t go out and knock on doors doing our recruitment for us.”

One route Commissioners on the Economic Development Committee explored Monday night was the hiring of a full-time Economic Development Director for the County. Strunk characterized the position as one that would require a long-term financial commitment from the County. “This isn’t a job where you would pay someone $25,000 per year, it would be more like $100,000 per year,” noted Keeton. Keeton went on to opine that the three municipalities in the county would also reap the benefits of the position, and could be asked to share in the financial burden. “Or we could just say we’re hiring someone, and vote to take on the entire (burden),” Keeton concluded.

Commissioner Clyde Zachary summed up the situation, declaring, “You have to spend money to bring money in.”