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.