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Posted on: Monday - Feb 29, 2016

Each of the 95 counties in Tennessee have their own unique story. All of these stories combine to make Tennessee a great place to live and work. While each county has certain advantages that it brings to Tennessee, some of these counties struggle to compete when it comes to economic development.  

TNECD has created the Distressed Counties Website Enhancement program to assist these counties in corporate recruitment and expansion. This program will give at-risk and distressed counties the tools they need to compete economically. The program provides each county with an up-to-date website complete with content, video and photography specific to each community. The program also includes a training session that shows each county how to operate, manage and update their county website even after the program has ended. 

Corporate decision makers consider the Internet the most effective resource during their site selection process. Communities that have little or no Internet presence struggle to bring in businesses, simply because the corporate decision makers are unaware of what that county has to offer. The mission of the Distressed Counties Website Enhancement program is to make these communities more accessible to prospect companies and site selectors by delivering messages that are unique to the advantages that each community has to offer.

The Distressed Counties Website Enhancement program application was open to all 21 of Tennessee’s distressed counties. A distressed county is defined based on its rates of poverty and unemployment. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) uses an index-based classification system to compare each county with the national averages. ARC looks at three economic indicators: three-year average unemployment rates, per capita income and poverty rates. Based on these indicators each Appalachian county is then categorizes as either distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive or attainment.

Each applicant filled out an online form that asked about their county’s current economic development efforts including their best economic development assets, their biggest challenges economically and why a company should choose their county as a site for a new location or expansion.  The applications were then reviewed by TNECD and 12 counties were selected. 

The 12 counties that were selected to participate in the Distressed Counties Website Enhancement program are Bledsoe, Campbell, Cocke, Fentress, Johnson, Lake, Lauderdale, McNairy, Morgan, Scott, Wayne and White. These counties will all receive new economic development websites, custom video and photography to showcase each county and a website training session to help them manage the new site. Each counties’ website will be finalized by October 2016.

The TNECD team is currently visiting these counties for the initial discovery meetings and location scouting. In the coming weeks, TNECD will visit and meet with members from each county and develop a plan that will highlight each counties’ individual economic advantages. After the initial discovery meetings are complete, TNECD will create custom content for all 12 counties. Then the photography and video will be shot and the county websites will be developed. After the launch of each website, TNECD will work with each county to train members on how to successfully manage and update the new economic development website.  

Last week the TNECD team kicked off the initial discovery meetings in Campbell, Scott, Morgan and Fentress Counties. They met with county representatives and regional staff in a two-hour meeting to discuss the best plan of action for each county. The team also got to explore sites that showcase existing workforce, education and quality of life in each county. The team visited Bushtec Manufacturing and Sales, Inc., TCAT- Huntsville, Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary and Sgt. Alvin C. Historic State Park, just to name a few. In the coming weeks the team will visit the remaining eight counties to complete the first step in the Distressed Counties Website Enhancement Program.