Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An economic success story from the rural South

Marketplace (American Public Media) ran this story yesterday, dateline Lincoln County, Tennessee, population 33,633.  The headline is "How One Tennessee County Kept Unemployment So Low," and in it Blake Farmer reports that Lincoln County is one of two Tennessee counties where the jobless rate has dipped below 5% in recent months.  Farmer describes the county as "rolling farmland dotted with rusty silos and wooden barns."  

Although the county has lost some employers to overseas competition, manufacturing is still big in Lincoln County.  Goodman Manufacturing is the largest manufacturing concern by far, with 1,500 employees building "heating,ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) units from the ground up."  The mayor of the county seat, Fayetteville, notes that some local factories are expanding, with as many as 600 new jobs being created.

Farmer notes that the county's geographical situation both helps and hurts.  It has no major transportation thoroughfares, but it is within commuting distance from thriving Huntsville, Alabama, population 183,739.  Oddly, the Census Bureau does not show Lincoln County as part of the Huntsville MSA.

Interestingly, the poverty rate for Lincoln County is 16.4%, above the national average. That seems odd for a county with such a low unemployment rate, though it could indicate that many in Lincoln County are working poor--that too many of the jobs on offer there do not lift employees above the poverty line.

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