Unemployment rate dropping in Scott County

By: Conroy Delouche Email
By: Conroy Delouche Email

SCOTT COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - As unemployment numbers drop across the state, there's hope in Scott County.

The county's jobless rate dropped from 18.1% in January to 17.4% the next month.

There are a couple answers you can point to. Some possibilities could be there are fewer people filing for unemployment, or they've moved to a different county.

But others are more positive that this is a sign of a turning economy. The Chamber of Commerce says the philosophical changes they've made are slowly making progress.

"It's just a beautiful place to live, a beautiful place to raise a family," said Wayne King, the president of the Scott Chamber.

But for years, it was not a beautiful place to find a job. King says that's why the Chamber took a hard look to figure out the best way to overcome unemployment.

"Looking at diversification because if a community is not diversified, it is doomed to fail," said King.

For too long, the county relied on coal, timber and a few big companies that eventually downsized, crippling the workforce.

Now, the plan is to bring in smaller businesses in a variety of fields that will stay.

"The slow growth is better than any type of fast explosion because that typically doesn't last," said King.

Companies like JDS, owned by a Scott County native and his wife.

"Over the past two years, we've had four expansions. Our sales have doubled, and employees have doubled year on year virtually the past two years, said Jerry Slaven, the owner.

But there is one big employer the county wants back, their hospital.

A deal was recently reached to reopen, which is great news for former employees, patients, and future businesses wanting to relocate.

That won't make everything better, but it would certainly be a symbol of progress in the state's most unemployed county.

"It's one we take as a challenge. That we're gonna overcome this to show the state of Tennessee that we're going to not only endure this, but overcome," said King.

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