Fentress County has officially moved off the Tennessee distressed county list to only at-risk.
The Appalachian Regional Commission annually categorizes all counties in Tennessee as distressed, at-risk, transitional or competitive based on economic status. Fentress County Executive Jimmy Johnson said the economic improvement is due to the workers of Fentress.
“The workforce that we have,” Johnson said. “If something happens to their job, they will go on and seek to find another job. We are blessed with some good workers here in Fentress County.”
Johnson said the county’s money management, tourism and low unemployment rate during Covid contributed to the upswing of its economy. Johnson said the improvements could not be possible without state grants.
“When the state gives out two $500,000 dollar grants and one of them is your county’s, that is going to turn some heads,” Johnson said. “People will think the state is really interested in backing this county.”
The ARC uses each county’s three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate when categorizing the index. Johnson said the teamwork between the county commission and development boards allowed Fentress to make the jump to an at-risk economy.
“We are not having to raise taxes again this year. That is a good thing,” Johnson said. “I have to give a lot of credit to our commission being able to take care of our tax payers money and using it wisely. We have gotten several grants through the state of Tennessee that has helped us. We have been very diligent with everything we have been doing in the last year.”
Fentress County received a $500,000 grant this month to improve the land and recruit businesses to build at the Clarkrange Regional Business Park. Johnson said once businesses start building, even more jobs and tourism will come to the county.