List of distressed counties in Tennessee down to 8

Published 4:10 pm Monday, July 3, 2023

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Tennessee now has just eight financially distressed counties, a drop from the 15 counties meeting that designation in 2019.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee attributed the drop to spending and initiatives focused on distressed rural areas, including the state’s economic incentives. A distressed county is one among the 10% most economically distressed in the nation, as determined by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

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The ARC factors in a three-year rate of unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate. Grundy and Morgan counties moved off the distressed list this year. Bledsoe, Clay, Cocke, Hancock, Hardeman, Lake, Perry and Scott counties remain on the distressed list.

“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,” Lee said in a statement. “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.”

Lee cited 213 economic development projects that received state subsidies along with $200 million spend to improve Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology infrastructure and $98 million spent on a TCAT enrollment initiative since 2021.

“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,” Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter said in a statement. “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.”

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is now below 5% in all but two counties, Bledsoe and Scott.