Distressed no more: Four Tenn. counties come off list

Gov. Bill Lee welcomes delegates to a summit on economically distressed counties in Linden on Aug. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Fentress, Jackson, Morgan, and  McNairy counties are no longer officially designated as distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is hailing the news as evidence of the effectiveness of its efforts to prioritize economic development in the poorest areas of the state.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that Tennessee has the fewest distressed counties statewide since 2007, down from 15 in 2019 to 11 counties according to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

“McNairy, Jackson, Fentress and Morgan counties have shown tremendous improvement and we are proud to support continued efforts for greater stability and prosperity,” said Gov. Lee. “As these counties improve beyond distressed status this means more residents have access to quality jobs and economic security and we are committed to efforts that sustain this progress.”

Each year, ARC prepares an index of county economic status for every county in the United States. Economic status designations are identified through a composite measure of each county’s three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate. Based on these indicators, each county is then categorized as distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive or attainment. More information is available here.

McNairy, Jackson, Fentress and Morgan counties advanced out of distressed designation, signaling improved economic conditions for their residents. No Tennessee counties were added to the distressed list this year.

“We are focused on supporting rural Tennessee, especially our distressed counties as we strive for greater economic outcomes,” said Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe. “In 2013, Tennessee had 26 counties classified as distressed, and we are pleased to announce a drop to a 13-year low. Today’s news reaffirms our long-term rural strategy, which is built around a full suite of community development grants and enhanced efforts to support job creation in our most economically vulnerable communities.”

“We have been working daily to improve the economic status of McNairy County,” McNairy County Mayor Larry Smith said. “We are grateful to hear today’s news, but we know that our work is only just beginning. Moving forward, we will continue to work hard and think outside the box to support the unique needs of our county. We are thankful to Governor Lee for his support of rural communities like ours.”

“I am thankful to Governor Lee and his incredible staff for their tremendous efforts in helping lift our community out of distressed status,” Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady said. “We know that many factors go into this designation, but I believe that with the continued efforts of our Governor, his staff, and the proud citizens of our county, we will shed that label for good. The sky is the limit for Jackson County.”

“I was honored to receive the good news that Fentress County has moved off of the distressed county list,” Fentress County Executive Jimmy Johnson said. “I would like to thank Governor Bill Lee, along with his staff and the Department of Economic and Community Development for the plan and great guidance to follow to make this possible. We will strive harder than ever to make Fentress County a better place for our citizens to live. Thanks to all who have supported us on our journey.”

“This is great news for Morgan County. We have worked extremely hard to help lift our county off of the distressed list,” Morgan County Executive Brian Langley said. “We will continue working hard to make sure we keep Morgan County on the right track. A lot of positive things are happening in Morgan County, and we look forward to continuing to lead the way.”

One Response to Distressed no more: Four Tenn. counties come off list

  • MARLE says:

    And here I thought being on the distressed list meant Federal money, tax breaks, and other initiatives to bring in sweet business deals. Didn’t this help Greenville SC get BMW and Spartanburg get the Panthers Training camp. Right or Wrong? And btw…neither county is poor~ not in the least!

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