distressed counties

Lee touts economic progress in rural areas

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

Gov. Bill Lee has made economic development in rural areas one of his top priorities. At a rural summit at Pickwick Lake on Thursday, the governor touted his achievements so far that have included the number of distressed counties dropping from 19 in 2018 to nine today.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Tennessee has reduced the state’s number of distressed counties to an all-time low as the Lee Administration focuses on targeted interventions for workforce development and infrastructure.

“Early on, we set a goal that we would have less than 10 distressed counties by 2025,” said Gov. Lee. “By focusing on workforce development and infrastructure improvements, we are down to nine counties and will continue working to get remaining counties on the path to prosperity.”

Distressed counties rank among the 10 percent most economically distressed counties in the nation according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In the past four years, Tennessee has cut the number of distressed counties in half from 19 in 2018 to nine today. Since Gov. Lee took office, McNairy, Jackson, Fentress, Morgan, Hardeman, and Wayne counties have moved off the distressed list.

In 2019, Gov. Lee’s first Executive Order directed all state executive departments to issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee. Key workforce and infrastructure interventions include:

• Creating the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program and the Future Workforce Initiative to expand access to vocational and technical education.
• Investing $79 million to eliminate the 11,400 TCAT waiting list and increasing apprenticeships by more than 30 percent across the state.
• Allocating $100 million for broadband expansion in the FY21 budget which improves educational outcomes in rural communities.

These targeted strategies have resulted in Tennessee securing 132 projects in rural counties with over 23,000 new job commitments and $12.6 billion in capital investment since 2019.

Today, the Governor’s West Tennessee Rural Opportunity Summit was held in Counce, Tenn. The East Tennessee Summit will be held in November in Newport, Tenn. The Governor’s Rural Summit focuses on at-risk and distressed counties by engaging city and county mayors, education and economic leaders, and cabinet members.

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.

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Lee holds Cabinet meeting to launch distressed counties summit

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

Gov. Bill Lee has convened his Cabinet in Perry County to kick off a summit on economically distressed counties

Here’s a release from the governor’s office :

LINDEN, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County.

The meeting caps a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward.

“I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.”

23 state government departments submitted significant analysis that showed rural areas will benefit from the improved coordination of services and overall alignment of departments in serving rural Tennessee. Additionally, departments provided innovation recommendations for potential programs and solutions to be considered by the Lee Administration.

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Lee’s first executive order seeks to focus attention on distressed counties

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee in his first executive order aims to focus state agencies on improving services for Tennessee’s 15 economically distressed counties.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued his first executive order, requiring all state executive departments to issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee.

“My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” said Lee. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.”

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