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Date, theme set for Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas parade


ONEIDA, Tenn. — Through the eyes of a child.

That will be the theme of the 2016 Scott County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, which will march through the streets of Oneida on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 3.

While the parade’s fine details are still being sorted out, entries are already being accepted. The parade will step off from its traditional lineup location — the parking lot of HBD Industries on Industrial Lane — at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The parade will turn left onto Industrial Lane and continue east on Industrial Lane before turning left again onto Alberta Street (U.S. Hwy. 27). From there, the parade will travel north on Alberta Street to Traffic Light No. 5, where it will turn right onto Claude Terry Drive before disbanding in the parking lot at Oneida Elementary School.

Application forms for parade entries can be downloaded, printed and returned to the Chamber of Commerce’s offices at the Scott County Visitor Center on U.S. Hwy. 27 in Huntsville. Blank forms can also be picked up at the visitor center Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The deadline for submitting completed applications is Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

In the event of inclement weather, the parade will be held Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m.

Scott selected for property evaluation


From ScottCounty.com:

Scott County is one of eight counties across the state selected by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development to participate in the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program spring round, the Industrial Development Board of Scott County announced Monday afternoon.

Launched in 2015, the purpose of PEP is to improve the inventory of industrial sites and buildings in Tennessee by evaluating potential properties, advising counties on where investment may be most beneficial and what is needed to address issues.

TNECD unveiled the eight counties that it selected to participate in the program Monday afternoon.



Shopping Local



I am experiencing something new that is making me truly appreciate the local stores in Scott County. I am in the middle of purchasing a new house. In that process, I have realized there are plenty of things that I need for our new dwelling. Décor at our previous residence doesn’t seem to match the new surroundings, so off to shopping I go. Fall is a wonderful time of year. Colors are warm and local stores are bulking up for the upcoming Holiday Season. Now is the perfect time to visit those storefronts and begin exploring what treasures this community truly holds.
In my quest for a new sofa, bedding and bookshelf, I will of course be visiting our local Chamber of Commerce members like Lay Family Furniture and Valu-Mart. I could not even imagine not shopping local, after all they are the first to invest in this community I call home. It is through their tax revenue that my children have attended a wonderful school with roads that were accessible and emergency services that answered the call of need. So, without a second thought, my quest for furnishings begin. Upon looking at the selection, colors and patterns are shown to me that I can easily order if not in stock, I am finding that perfect new sofa and a good night’s slumber from local stores. With stores being full of inventory, it hard to believe anyone would find the need to drive out of town for their new furniture. Yet, the exploration is only beginning. I have my list ready to support local carpenters, electricians, window cleaners, hardware stores, retail stores, and even specialty shops that make the candles and scents to warm my house with inviting smells of fall. When finished, my home will be filled with all the flavor a local community…my friends and family who are living their dreams in your backyard. My family will be able to truly enjoy making memories in our new home because in the treasures that make it feel warm and cozy came from our local friends.
With the Holiday Season knocking on the door, the Chamber of Commerce is working diligently to help you understand all the unique shopping opportunities to help enable your family to make this season that fills the hearts of not only those on your Holiday list, but supporting your friends and neighbors, enabling them to support their families. It is truly a circle of support that depends on everyone doing their part to see our community flourish this season. Why do we do what we do? Because we at the Chamber of Commerce understands to better Scott County, we must be willingly to support Scott County. Shopping local is one of the fun ways to do just that. After all, why not? If you are out looking for a unique gift, why not stop at Phillips Merle Norman, Plateau Drug Center, The Primitive Barn, The Framing Gallery, The Good Ole Days Vendor Mall, Trophy Masters, or Bear Creek Candles. Wanting that homemade delicious factor at your party or meals? SugarBrooks, RaeZacks, County BBQ, Scott County Food Court, Preston’s Lee’s Chicken, McDonalds, Firehouse Pizza, El Rey’s to just name a few, can help you fill that need. Looking for that perfect place for that holiday party? Possum Trot, Amelia’s, Scott County Senior Citizens Center have your covered. How about a gift card for a gift? Mikes Service Station, BSF Vapors, Vapor Max, Tennessee Outdoors Store, Big Orange Window Tinting, Salvage LLC, Oneida Book & Gift, Custom Greg’s, Ellis Sales, Roark’s Service Station, or Lee’s Stations. Do you need to work some pounds off before those holiday pounds get added? Fightanium MMA or South Fork Physical Therapy are great places to start. Of course we can’t forget our grocers, Wal-Mart, Save-A-Lot, Helenwood Foods and Scenic Foods. And, we couldn’t forget those local florist who make our homes/businesses lovely…Milford’s Flower Shop and Andy’s Flower Shoppe. We love all these local favorites.
As you can see the list is long and it is just the tip of the shopping in your hometown. Local stores, whether they are small shops or franchise chains are investing in inventory and training to make sure that you, their customer, can have the best experience possible. When you shop with them, the whole community becomes stronger because your investment becomes our investment. So, get that Holiday spirit on, our county is filled with goodies for this season just waiting to be found in the best county in the state….SCOTT.

Team Scott



It’s almost been six years since I started advocating on behalf of the businesses and industries of Scott and our sister counties. I have had the honor of seeing businesses open their doors, and in six years, I have seen very few of them close them. We are, without argument, a part of rural Tennessee. I am not, nor should you be ashamed of that. We don’t have skyscraper office buildings, industries who employ thousands of people, sprawling malls, but in saying that, we don’t sit in hours of traffic to and from work and school, we don’t have high crime rates concerning murder, and we have a sense of community that rallies strong when we have a neighbor in need. Most of us know one another or we know each other’s parents or grandparents. We also know the times that one another finds their selves in a position that would be considered a “strike” in life. In saying all that, I understand rural isn’t for everyone, but it seems to fit for 22,000 thousand of us that calls Scott County home.
I realize, more than most, the issues that Scott County faces. The Board of Directors, that I work for, faces and address them on a daily basis to try to survive in a fierce game of competition. I also realize that it doesn’t matter where in the world you travel, call home, or view from a screen, they have issues as well. So, why does County’s issues seem more critical? It is because we live here and the weaknesses we face hit us square in the face daily. Despite what we think, move anywhere in the world and you will see the problems that face us, in many ways, are apparent elsewhere. Every community fights a battle to overcome, maybe they wear a different color jersey or look nicer, but they are facing issues inside their team (community). So yes, we have issues, and at times, our issues are worse than others.
When I started my job almost six years ago, we had just lost some of the best paying jobs in the county, 260 of them to be exact. A few years later, we lose our hospital and more good paying jobs. The sky in Scott County grew dark and people felt defeated. Yet, in that dark storm that seemed to loom over us, our local businesses and industries buckled down and decided to weather the storm. Every day, they opened their doors. Every day during this fierce time of stormy weather, they still supported the local workforce, schools, and organizations and learned to operate with less. Why? Because they live here, work here, and love the community they chose to live their dreams in. In those days of darkness, when their accountants were telling them that negative profit lines were to doom them, they stayed. Now, the economy, thanks to the dedication of a state of recruiters who made us desirable to do business here, is feeling a swing of hope that is racking up a hit. Our local businesses are maybe, just maybe coming to the plate with the reality that they may get to go to bat with a year-end balance sheet of at least a base hit.
So, how does this all tie together? Rural Tennessee can often be considered the underdogs in the game of growth, but that is such a ridiculously, incorrect label. We as a community weathered the storm, we are now beginning to win the game. I guess my question of that keeps haunting me is simply this, hearing all you have heard, watching our team stand in the woes of defeat, brewing storms and false labels, do you as a community support your team? Do you cheer them on? Do you stand by them and encourage them, shopping with them when possible, being positive in speech about their commitment to the county, or do you label them to the world as a rural Tennessee community that can’t win? Why does it matter? It matters because after all that we have been through, the businesses and industries of Scott County, who could have easily, one by one, joined other teams decided to stay and keep Scott County going. In all that, the dedication, the struggle, the financial support they have given, do you support them? Rally around them and be proud of who you are a community that refuses to stop or stay defeated. In cheering for them, you are indeed cheering for the best county in the state…..SCOTT. GO TEAM!!!!!

Senator Ken Yager



I don’t know the first time I ever met him, yet I know that I cannot remember a time in my career at the Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Board that Senator Ken Yager hasn’t been there for us. There has never been a question, a concern, or a need that I ever felt uncomfortable posing to him on behalf of the businesses or citizens of Scott County. In fact, I believe most businesses or individuals feel comfortable enough to reach out to Senator Yager for their selves.
I think it takes a special kind of man/woman who wants to be a Senator over seven (7) counties. I can’t imagine the responsibility one takes upon themselves and their family to be the advocate and voice to so many that desire and deserve to be heard. When you think of all that is placed on the shoulders of an elected state senator, it has to be an individual of great vision and character to endure. It must be an individual who will truly listen and hear the needs of the communities he/she represents, and then walk boldly into a mass of others all pleading for causes of their people, and find a way to be heard. That takes a unique person indeed.
When you think of the plights of rural counties, the issues that come from the corners of out of the way communities, the very communities Senator Yager represents, you find it takes a leader of great strength with a voice that refuses to shake, standing against those pleading causes in their urban areas. Most rural counties feel that their stories are marred with the heroic songs of the cities that thrive with the bounties all of the technology, roads, and infrastructure for success, but who better than a former rural attorney and county executive to stand fierce in the ring of those urban critics and wave the banner of equal justice for us, the rural Tennessee? Senator Ken Yager, just fell in love, much like we love our dear Scott County, for the people of rural Tennessee and with that love, he stands firm, fighting for the rights of the communities that call him leader. Whether it is roads, healthcare, incentives for industry and tourism, Senator Ken Yager is standing in Nashville with the banners of Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Pickett, Rhea, Roane, and our beloved Scott County waving them boldly, demanding that our needs be addressed by the whole of Tennessee, and in return challenging us to take advantage and benefit, grow and prosper from the bounty.
It’s not just a job to Senator Yager, fighting for Scott County. You see him on Facebook and Twitter keeping up with the people who he represents. He is the whisper in the ear of the Governor to notify him of our tragedies, and he is the publisher of our victories to the entire state, proud like a Papa saying, look what they have done. He attends many of our funerals, mourning the loss of our loved ones. Wears school colors with pride at our games, cheering our heroes and speaks at banquets honoring those who serve or give to our community. He is a true friend that makes a weekly call to the newspaper, asking what the people of Scott County need and how he can serve them better. He is a leader that stands at the very core of our government in the capital of our great state and goes nose to nose for us, never flinching and walking away with a compromise that we all can gain hope from.
I often wonder if he ever receives a call from us to say thank you. I know we feel so close to him, like we matter so much that we do not hesitate to call when there is a problem or concern, but as a community have we ever took the time to just stay thank you for not backing down? For being a man of character or simply a man whose voice refuses to shake? This really isn’t about the politics in many ways, this party or that, this is more about a common man who ran a race, became elected and became an extraordinary individual who gives so freely of his life to simply serve the people he loves. Thank you Senator Ken Yager, for looking past party lines and speaking for the rural counties of TN. We truly appreciate you and your willingness to serve, what we believe to be the best county in the whole state…Scott.

Graduation Day



The anticipation has been growing and today is the day. The whole family has set aside schedules and obligations to be here for this moment in time, Graduation Day. Family has traveled from miles around; houses are full, hotels booked, and celebration dinners at local restaurants organized. Now to focus on the moment what everyone has rushed to see, that loved one walking across the stage. A name is called, your child, brother/sister, grandson/granddaughter, cousin, niece/nephew, name being called to be awarded a diploma for 13+ years of education and success. Applause and cheers of excitement fill the air as they call that awaited name and then before you realize it, the ceremony has ended and the celebration has began.

Graduation is not only a family celebration though; it is a community one as well. In a rural county such as Scott, most of us know many of the 200+ graduates each year. We have watched them grow and learn. We have celebrated their successes and supported them in their struggles. One aspect that we may never think about though, is the role of the local businesses on graduation day. For to them, it is a success they can truly celebrate. Why? Our local businesses actually may be one of the largest financial investors in our students outside of their families. Local businesses are the spine of community backbone in the contribution. Not only do they pay property taxes, but they bring in sales tax. Tax, that designates Scott County’s portion to one half going to our local school systems first. That is taxes that are created by the sales of the business generated to go into education of all Scott County children. Even if a child is home schooled or in private school, they still benefit because the other half of those tax dollars are placed to fund emergency personnel and services, libraries, and needed governmental services, all tools that every citizen of Scott County or visitors can benefit from having in place. Yet, local businesses already generating one of the largest financial contributions to education don’t stop there. They are also are the first ones to fund those extra programs at school. Scholarships to teachers, field trips, school supplies, equipment, computers and sports team advertising. When asked, our local businesses come to plate again and again with needed funding to provide opportunities to the 2015 graduating students walking across that stage. That is an investment you as a parent/guardian can be proud of, because it is you that support those local businesses by choosing to shop inside Scott County for needed items. Each dollar you spend truly does have a way of investing back in your family. As a Chamber of Commerce, this is another reason why we work so hard to encourage you to shop at home. In doing so, you are using your money to not only buy products you need locally, but you are further investing in not only your child, but the betterment of a continually generation of a workforce that is ready to attract even more companies to the best county in the state.
So, as you are desperately seeking that creatively decorated cap of your loved one and proudly cheering as you hear their name called to walk across that stage of success, know that your local businesses are cheering with you also. It truly is a community celebration, because we as a community, a team, have all invested to see this day for your loved one.

Out of Tragedy Comes Greatness



It seems that out of the ashes of tragedy the greatest stories ever told are born. It is odd that tragedy, with such a negative definition tied to its existence, can be a seed of inspiration. There must be something about complete brokenness that inspires new growth, because when tragedy visits, you have two choices: heal or succumb to the bitterness. Thus, the story of community begins.
The heat and long hours of summer instills in us a passion of freedom. School is out, vacations are planned, and outdoor living becomes commonplace. Yet with every summer, a fall is surly to follow and then comes the words children dread to hear, and adults (all but teachers) rejoice in hearing…Back to School. It amazes me how in just a few short months of freedom and heated days, a body can change so drastically. Clothes that fit your children perfectly in May now look more like the gift of an older brother/sister, or they have met a horrific accident causing shrinkage unreal. Therefore, the fret of a new wardrobe slow fades the joy of the words Back to School for parents. We all can say it doesn’t matter about what you wear, just be you. In a perfect world, that is stellar advice, but journey back to your own youth, you wanted to fit in, and we all wanted the latest trends. Today, it is no different. With great love for the community and that thought in mind, Michael’s Mission Back to School Sale was born.
I didn’t get to help at those first few sales on Paint Rock Road where the entire Jones family lugged, sorted, and prepared clothing so parents could purchase a wardrobe their children could walk in their school on that first day with pride. I know the love that was the driving force at those first sales is the same stitch of love that hemmed the big sale this past Saturday. No one who worked those first sales, or even I after working the events the last several years, would envision what would transpire for this sale. An annual event, standing in one of the largest Boys & Girls Club in the region, brimming over with organizations doing what they do best: displaying their gifts and passion, and caring for the people of Scott County. From Dr. Caleb Thompson and his talented team—cleaning and cleaning teeth, with at times as long as an hour and half wait, to our Sheriff’s Dept. offering fingerprinting kits to almost a thousand children. Kathy and Katie with ALQI, floated about the building spreading kindness like the angels of love they are, and so many people gave their precious day off to work hard and unite for one cause, to take that fret from a parent’s mind and grant children with an opportunity to walk into a new school year strutting their stuff. What flowed like honey to a community of participants, birthed from one family, took flight with a coalition, which defined the very essence of the day: A coalition coming together to each shine in their field.
While most of the community only identifies STAND as a drug testing facility, Saturday at the Back to School Sale with almost 1900 individuals served, STAND got to do what it was created to do, be a shield and resource to a community in need by threading all sections of an umbrella of vibrancies together. Trent Coffey is rarely recognized for his daily heroics to this county. Why? Because he would say, this is simply what I have been hired to do, and that statement was echoed from every successful organization in that place on Saturday.
I have often heard the question posed to the Jones family, do you think Michael’s life had to be taken to form Michael’s Mission which has been a foundation of hope for Scott County? John, Vickie, and Michael’s brother Bill Jones, who are all heroic givers in their own special field, would undoubtedly all answer, NO, but I take liberty to convey that they would agree. The ashes of brokenness that losing a son and a brother left, certainly defined their path, and the Jones family chose a path of healing, and healing it has been for an entire county. Somehow on Saturday, the success of a path that stirred so far from bitterness seemed to fade the scar of tragedy just a little more. For from tragedy came inspiration, and from inspiration came greatness, greatness that reaches far past clean teeth and new clothes. On Saturday, a community came together to form an umbrella of protection to shield those exposed to the rain, and challenged them to take pride in their being. Most importantly, the community gave them fabric and instructions to stitch their own shield of hope in the shape of an umbrella, and in that umbrella somehow remind them that even in their tragedies, they have the strength to choose the path of healing instead the narrow road of a bitter existence.
Well played Scott County…well played!

Another Day At the Office



Describing the job we do daily as an abundant opportunity is perhaps the largest understatement ever written. What Shantel Crabtree and myself are blessed to encounter each and every day is heritage, skill, struggles, endurance and future. Our phones ring at the Chamber of Commerce office multiple times daily with questions as simples as…Who do I call to set up a booth at a festival…to what are the laws about businesses allowing customers to use restroom facilities….or questions pertaining to zoning, land, traffic counts and utilities to help a developer make that final decision on a land purchase.
Our day, every day, is spent researching to provide information requested or connect with someone specialized to help. I have often defined us as a mere switchboard for Scott County, with our goal being to connect two partners together to resolve the issue defined. But somehow, that doesn’t really capture what we do. So, I decided to shadow the Scott County Chamber of Commerce & Industrial Development Board. Let me caution you as you read this, no week, day, is ever the same at our office, but this can tickle your thoughts with the everyday role shifting we have the privilege of encountering.
It’s Monday morning and the day begins about 7:00a.m. Like most mornings the phone starts ringing, text messages arrive or notifications on social media awaiting a response. Yes, social media. It is a daily routine to scan social media to find the mood, concerns, celebrations/losses of this place we call home and the people who are part of it. Some days, that simple scan sets a to do list for our office…thank you cards, letters or notes of encouragement, ideas for programs needed or simple celebration. It has become an essential part of staying connected to our community.
The travel to the office for me, although only about a 20 minute drive, can at times take about an hour.Stops along the way to save precious time later, turn into concerned business owners asking for a moment to share a thought or issue. I take advantage of this because I love talking about Scott County and I try to never miss a chance to get people excited about the positive things taking place here. I once asked my Board of Directors if they felt it important, all those stops and just chit chat about a community overcoming. They smiled, reminding me, they were in the group of those who I encountered on my way to the Visitor Center.
At the office, Shantel is there bright and early handling the flood of calls, emails, and visitors. She is amazing with our visitors. They come in for one questions and it is not uncommon to hear them still chatting with her twenty minutes later. She has a way to draw them in with her kindness and smile; families, couples, groups just don’t want to leave. I sometimes just sit and listen to her with them, whether it is on the phone or in person, she astounds me. She sells our community and the local businesses in a fashion that is fun and leaves them searching for even more to do in this great place.
As Shantel works her magic downstairs, I begin the responses to commercial developers, site selectors, and county leaders, follow-ups with planners for future industrial sites. One returned call always leads to a new door for another company. I sit amazed at the grace of a well orchestrated happening that leads us into the best success we encounter. Rarely ever do they start off planned, but after hours of listening, questioning and searching, a new opportunity for one of our great businesses/industries/organizations emerges. Schedules for Chamber meetings, Local Emergency Planning Meetings, mayor meetings, state meetings, all swirl around our calendar upstairs while Shantel, downstairs, is keeping it all in place, making sure that we have the material needed for each event or meeting. Did I tell you she was amazing?
It seems like the morning has just started when we realize, it is past lunch. Grabbing a bite at our desks, I am scanning a magazine opportunity for advertising our community, and Shantel sneaking a sandwich in between tourists. The afternoon quickly arrives with an Industry tour and I won’t lie, those are my favorite. I leave the Visitor Center bustling with activity in great care and go to be fascinated by what Scott County is contributing to the world. I won’t lie; those industry tours give me goose-bumps. It is so exciting looking at the products being invented, manufactured and shipped around the world that is made right here in Scott County, TN. Leaving with a huge smile, an excited outlook for our future, I head back to the office for yet, another meeting.
After several more small conversations about local lending opportunities for small businesses, meetings on ways to save on utility costs for industries, and planning for the Christmas Parade, Shantel and I decide to call it a day. The ride home is filled with a call with updates from Nashville, a few more messages on social media about events or job opportunities and a smile on my face, thinking today, was a good day for Scott County. The driveway to home appears and precious time with family before bed and a brand new day of adventures to tackle. I’ll asleep thinking, what will tomorrow be like at the office? I hope just like today, but a thousand times better for the best county in the state….SCOTT.

Darkness to Light with the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands


It’s Tuesday morning, the start of another day of Leadership Scott. The group of young adults and community leaders are anxiously waiting to see what another day holds.
The room is warm and full of kindness as Kellie Asberry, director of the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands appears. I am quite sure that not one person in that group knew what was truly in store for them that morning. As we walk through the halls of what seemed to be a great maze, we find our seats in the board room of the center. The next couple hours, for these minds discovering what Scott County is all about, will be a great awakening. Armed with donuts and juice for our group, Kellie begins sharing the passion for the abused and victims in our community. The class sat quietly listening about the services that the team of hearts stitched together performs daily to help heal the wounded. The educational pieces that never seem to be enough for the center, only because abuse still exist in our corner of earth. A program called, Darkness to Light, helping open doors in the minds of educators, coaches, mentors, churches, etc., warning them of the signs of child begging to be helped or rescued. A battleground approach to empower the children to say it is not ok, and their body is not a playground for unwanted touch. A place to hand out badges of courage to children who tell their stories and undertaking the enormous task of protecting them when they do, all under one roof, all so their nightmare only has to be relived just once. From infant to elder, the Children’s Center is there with ointment to heal a hurting Scott County.
I look around the room and see fourteen faces sitting almost overwhelmed at what they are hearing. Half brokenhearted for the great pain that so many have endured and half proud of the center that captures the pain, bottles it, and stores it away to pursue the constant process of restoration. However, I knew what was coming next. I saw Kellie walk to the TV screen, my own heart started racing, and I knew, the video. The video that would forever change the minds of Leadership Scott just as it had mine the first time I had saw it. With one single push of play, it began. The voice of Sonni Reagan filled the room as she narrated a story from a survivor of child abuse in Scott County. A storyboard of pictures began appearing on screen, painting a picture in our heart. The memories of a child and her life lived, the ugly words that tried to coach her to fail. Cowardly hands that beat her, the violence that stole their family’s lives. Pictures so perfectly chosen to illustrate the echoing voices of the narrator, you found yourself wanting to hide, hoping he wouldn’t find you. Before you could wrap your mind fully around what was happening, the story stopped. It stopped with a child asking, why? Why had no one helped? The lights brightened and there was Leadership Scott sitting with no blinders on. For that victim, one of the bravest women I know chose to take her story and educate the world. I saw the looks, I knew the look, and I experienced firsthand, the look of unbelief. How could this be happening in our hometown? The look of how dare you tell me? I can’t just settle to do nothing now, which is exactly the hope of this hero, which by telling her story, it will stop the cycle, the violence, the abuse.
The thing about education, once you are, you can’t be the same. The goal of Kellie Asberry and the skilled team at the Children’s Center had done exactly what they had intended to do, educate. In over an hour, the Center laid a piece of Scott County inside the core of that Leadership Scott class, and that is what they do day after day for Scott County, pouring their hearts in the protection of a community healing.
In her closing words to Leadership Scott, Kellie looks out at the room, smiles her passionate smile, and says this, “There are no victims here, only survivors.” Survivors indeed Scott County, because leaders, citizens, families, heroes they all chose to remove the blinders of a passive acceptance and walk from darkness into light through education and protection of the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands.

ECD-A True Friend to Scott County


In light of the recent victory of shedding the Highest Unemployment County for over 59 months, we wanted the community to see one of the key roles to our success.
The first time I remember ever seeing him was at a gathering of the who’s who from the state of TN one afternoon in the basement of the Scott County Visitor Center. A strategic brainstorming event that was launched after the devastating news of Scott County losing 301 jobs on February 4, 2010. That day became what is now considered the day that Scott County, TN became the highest unemployment county in the state of TN and remained so for 59 months.
Gary Human, State of TN ECD Job Specialist at the time, sat inside that meeting and listened as organizations, county leaders and elected officials worked to obtain a plan to keep the community from spiraling further downward. He never spoke much, but it was Gary Human that met with me after the meeting and said these words to me, “Here is what we are going to do.” Those words began a partnership that has spanned five years. His plan on that cold dreary time in Scott County was to get to know the existing industries, the businesses, and the non-profits. Find out who they are, what they do, and if they can grow, then work your tail off taking care of them. I sat there dumbfounded at the simplicity of it all. I think being brand new to economic development, I half expected him to bring a miracle industry to us. In 2010, what Gary Human was saying to us, was what the State of TN would make their banner statement in 2013, grow your own.
How do you grow your own though? What was it that we weren’t doing that they needed from us? Those questions became the driving force of the Industrial Development Board and the Chamber of Commerce. We knew we had talent. We knew we had advantages, it was just time to take inventory, make discoveries, and then network. Effective marketing of a product does not come overnight. It takes time to understand. So, for the past five years, with Gary Human guiding us, we began understanding who we were, what we were capable of accomplishing and how to make it happen.
Where are we today? Well, we are over 500 jobs stronger, Yes, 500. We have new businesses popping up all over the county, and our local industries are growing. While it may not come in an announcement of 200 new jobs in one day, it is happening. Most times, companies and businesses quietly enter the market place looking for employees make their hires and never asked to be recognized for doing it here in Scott County and the one who is usually in the center of it all, Gary Human. Not a day goes by that Gary, the newly named Regional Director of the State of TN Economic & Community Development –East Region, is not making needed check-up calls to Scott County and networking them to potential companies while problem solving. In some ways, he is much like what our office is to the community, but on a national level. Yet, in saying that, it really does terrible injustice to Gary to only classify him as a simple networking agent, for he is the guy who is up sending emails at midnight. He is awake before the chickens to make sure the communities he represents are given every opportunity to grow, and grow we are. It may be baby steps that Scott County is taking, but Gary Human is one of the individuals who encouraged and taught Scott County to make them. It is easy to love a community when they prosper, but to love them when they struggle, and still stand by their side, that is true friend and Scott County has one in Gary Human.