(VIA | WPLN.org, Nashville Tenn.) In a small town or rural areas, when the economy turns down or the big manufacturing plant shuts down, most people may think the solution is recruiting another big manufacturing company,” writes Chas Sisk, a reporter with WPLN-FM, the public radio station in Nashville, Tenn. But not Perry County, Tenn. Eight years ago, unemployment peaked at a shade below 30 percent — the worst in Tennessee. Things were so bad, the state paid employers just to put people to work. It was billed as a modern twist on the New Deal. Today, the rural community of 8,000 nestled along the Tennessee and Buffalo rivers, has an unemployment of only 5 percent.
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Linden, Tenn. County seat of Perry County
How did Perry County foster such growth?
“Small businesses,” says Will Nunley, executive director of the Perry County Chamber of Commerce. Nunley is referring to “startups, mom-and-pop shops, and even entrepreneurs – It’s those types of businesses that are interested in our community. I believe we can have just as much success incubating small businesses that will have ten employees than to focus on trying to recruit a new, large plant).”
Perry County lessons
- Support smaller employers who have a deeper commitment to the community — or who aren’t so big that they could tear the local economy apart if things don’t work out.
- Improve the town’s infrastructure: Rather than invest in recruiting big manufacturing plants, Perry County improved the county’s broadband service and refurbished the town’s retail area.