Saying Warren County is a shining example when it comes to leading the way in education and forward thinking to grow its job base, Tennessee Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd praised the Nursery Capital for its efforts.
“There is no better community in the state,” said Boyd during his address to McMinnville’s Noon Rotary Club on Thursday. “You guys are an example to the entire state.”
Boyd pointed to the promotion of Mechatronics at WCHS and post-graduate system and the $5.5 million grant recently awarded to the local campus of Motlow College for an advanced robotics center. He noted Warren County was one of 42 applicants for grant money aimed at education for cutting-edge jobs.
“You finished first,” Boyd said, pointing out the application and need in this area is what brought the $5.5 million endowment.
Boyd said the state is enjoying its best economic time in history. However, there are rural communities still lagging behind and need help in getting their share of the economic boom.
“For the last two years in the row, Tennessee has set new records for household income,” Boyd said, noting that last year median income grew by 6.4 percent, surpassed only by Montana. “In the last two years, Tennessee has seen 50,000 new jobs.”
Boyd surmised one reason some rural areas have not reaped the benefits is because they do not have the infrastructure to lure commerce.
“There are 17 counties in Tennessee that are among the bottom 10 percent in poverty and income in the country,” said Boyd, pointing to nearby Grundy and Van Buren counties as examples.
One major reason for the disconnection between boom and bust is the lack of preparation.
“You have to invest in industrial sites,” Boyd said, noting Warren County has done well in paving the way for industry. “No job is coming to a place where there isn’t a site.”
Boyd said the state is doing work to build partnerships to help bolster those counties that are still having tough economic times. Last year, Boyd said 44 percent of the new jobs in the state went to rural counties, something he said is by design. He hopes by working with rural counties to bolster their infrastructure the distance will become smaller between the haves and have-nots.
Tennessee Promise is another way to promote the reduction of disparity as the initiative to provide two years of college to every graduating high school senior will help ensure that when the jobs come, there will be capable employees to fill them.
WCPI 91.3 FM will air an interview with Boyd at 5 p.m. Tuesday, 5:05 a.m. Wednesday, 1 p.m. Thursday, and 1:05 a.m. Friday.