CELINA-County Mayor Dale Reagan recently announced Clay County has moved up a level in an economic designation established by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), showing things are improving business-wise here locally.
Annually, the ARC conducts a statistical analysis of all the counties in the nation, with an emphasis on the counties in their multi-state area. For the first time in many years, the ARC study reported that Clay County is no longer designated as an “economically distressed” county.
Clay County now joins our neighboring counties, including Overton and Putnam, with the designation of “at risk.”
There is also good news in another ranking system that is done annually by the Tennessee State Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD).
TNECD divides all the counties in the state into four tiers denoting their economic condition.
“Clay County has moved from the lowest level up to a “tier three” level, which is the same level as Putnam County,” Reagan explained. “It is evident that Clay County is on the rebound in a big way.”
Retiring Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ray Norris also pointed to an increase in tourism and the addition of new businesses here contributing to the new designations.
“During the tourist season this past summer the Tennessee Department of Revenue reported that Clay County had as much as a 20 percent increase in sales tax collections over the previous year,” Norris said. “This increase is well beyond most of the other counties in the Upper Cumberland.
“One reason for the increase in sales tax collections could be the big boom we’ve had in new business creation.”
Norris explained Clay County has had well over 20 new businesses or business expansions to open in the county over the past couple of years, including:
• Highway 52 Barbecue,
• Moss One Stop Convenience Market,
• Moss Dollar General Store,
• Celina Tire & Oil Service,
• Uptown Boutique,
• Treehouse Treasures,
• Billy Burgers,
• River’s Edge Outdoors,
• 1 Stop Barbecue,
• Cumberland Bioscience,
• Cumberland River Media Service,
• Cumberland Exteriors,
• Family Dollar,
• Ogletree Apartments,
• Speedo’s Fish to Go,
• Anderson Hometown Pharmacy,
• Xpress Medical Equipment,
• Nick’s Auto Repair,
• Old Home Place Antiques,
• Hometown Fitness,
• Country Creations Flowers & Gifts,
• Dale Hollow Open Pit BBQ,
• Tennesseee Retreat Log Cabin,
• Gilbert R. Ghearing, MD, and
• John Buford, CPA.
“As a result of this new growth, it is estimated that many new jobs have been created,” Norris continued. “The current unemployment rate for Clay County stands at 6.2% and this statistic indicates that the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest point since 1995.
“We understand there could be several more businesses that will be expanding, along with several new businesses opening in the near future.”
Celina Mayor Willie Kerr has expressed his appreciation to many of the downtown Celina merchants who have taken advantage of the grants from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to improve the exteriors of their buildings.
As the downtown area continues to improve in appearance, more customers are making their way to do business with them.
Kathy Merrett, head of the Celina Merchants Association, has expressed her appreciation to the businesses that have supported the many activities of that organization.
Doug Young, Clay Three Star Program Director, also expressed his appreciation to volunteers who have worked over the past nine years to make this program a success.
“So many people have given so much volunteer time to help make our Three Star Program a success,” Young said. “Many agencies in the state and federal governments have given their support for programs that have assisted Clay County in our effort to get off the bottom of the ranking systems and helped get us moving in the right direction.
“Our local officials are in constant contact with the economic and community development agencies that can provide loans, grants, consultant services, and training to new and emerging businesses.”
Those interested in opening a new business can contact the Chamber to determine if assistance from the local, state and federal levels might be available to them.
“The Upper Cumberland Development District has just finished working with many Clay County businesses, government agencies and other local groups in the development of a comprehensive, long-range strategic plan that can be utilized to provide direction in making Clay County a better place in which to live, work and play.” Norris said. “It has been a long struggle, but the future of Clay County looks bright as we continue to recover from the loss of the garment industry over two decades ago.”