Gov. Lee Announces Fewest Distressed Counties in Tennessee History

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Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced on June 27 that the number of distressed counties in the state has reduced to eight, the fewest in Tennessee history, marking a significant milestone in the Lee administration’s mission to accelerate the transformation of rural Tennessee. According to the County Economic Status Map, the eight distressed counties are Lake, Hardeman, Perry, Clay, Bledsoe, Scott, Hancock and Cocke.

“In 2019, we began an administration-wide mission to expand opportunity for Tennesseans in rural areas, and our strategic workforce and infrastructure investments have resulted in an historic reduction of our state’s distressed counties,” said Gov. Lee. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all of Tennessee. As Tennessee experiences unprecedented economic growth and job creation, we’ll continue our work to prioritize rural communities so that Tennesseans in every county can thrive.”

According to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Grundy and Morgan counties advanced out of the distressed designation this year, reducing the total number of distressed counties from 15 to eight since 2019.

Since taking office, Gov. Lee has prioritized significant workforce, education and infrastructure investments to ensure economic growth, job creation and a greater quality of life across rural Tennessee. With these investments, the Governor has secured 213 economic development projects in rural counties that have netted more than $16 billion in capital investment and 33,000 new job commitments since 2019.

To view the notable strategic investments that support rural Tennessee’s success since 2019 click here.

“Elevating rural Tennessee is one of our top priorities, and by providing a pro-business climate for Tennessee companies to succeed, they are in turn providing high-quality job opportunities for citizens across the state,” said Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. “While today’s announcement is proof that we have made significant strides in reducing the number of distressed counties in Tennessee, we are committed to the eight remaining counties to help improve their economic status designations in the years ahead.”

Each year since 2007, the ARC has compiled an index of county economic status for every county in the United States. Economic status designations are identified through a composite measure of each county’s three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate.

Based on these indicators, each county is then categorized as distressed, at-risk, transition, competitive or attainment. Learn more here and view a County Economic Status Map for Tennessee here.

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