Gov. Bill Lee announced today that Jackson County is no longer economically distressed.
Each year, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) creates an index based on economic status for all counties in Tennessee. Mayor Randy Heady said moving on from being a distressed county to only at-risk is due to Jackson County’s residents wanting to improve.
“New energy has really helped our community out, so just an excitement to improve the quality of life here, locally,” Heady said. “Just seems like we have more people more energized and more excited and trying to move forward.”
Heady said new businesses, the county re-branding and the Wildwood Marina renovations all contributed to the improved economy. In the past few years, the county’s unemployment rates have dropped while wages have increased.
“There is no one thing to point to. I do believe a better economy has helped,” Heady said. “I know the past few months going through the pandemic has stifled the economy. But if you think about it, the economy has been very good.”
In the index, counties are categorized as distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive or attainment. The ARC identifies economic status through a composite measure of each county’s three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate. Heady said improvements need to continue to not fall back to a distressed county.
“The key is we continue to go,” Heady said. “We continue to climb and get out of the out-risk and become a complete tier three. The sky is the limit, and let us just keep going. The challenge now is to continue the climb and stay out of the distressed status.”
Heady said moving to an at-risk county means Jackson must pay a higher match percentage for all state grants. According to the ARC, Tennessee has the fewest distressed counties statewide since 2007, down from 15 in 2019 to 11 counties.