Snap-on expansion, downtown businesses mean welcomed growth for the community

Published 11:16 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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For years, ambitious young people moved away from the small towns and rural areas in which they had grown up, seeking a brighter future in the big city.
Several factors drove this migration: the increasing mechanization of farm work meaning fewer workers were needed, small-town businesses ending or needing less manual labor, and simply fewer people wanting to stay in a rural area to either farm or operate a small-town business. As more and more young people moved to large cities, many small towns faded away to a few businesses and perhaps a church.
But, in the late 1900s new jobs began relocating to the area, among them, Snap-on Tools where several new jobs were provided – good paying jobs. Now, the company is expanding its Elizabethton plant, adding nearly 49,000 square feet of manufacturing space and new equipment to support additional capacity for forging, machining, treating, chrome plating, and assembly. The good part is that the expansion will add 50 new jobs.
More and more young people are choosing industrial jobs over jobs requiring an education. Also, there is an increased number of high school students who are choosing vocational school over college, preferring everyday jobs such as mechanics, plumbing, carpentry, etc. to working in an office.
Also, many of those same young people, who moved away several years ago in search of better paying jobs, are now moving back to their hometown. Some do want to be closer to family and old friends and some move for a job, but according to a 2019 survey of 600 people moving into rural communities, the most common reason for moving to a small rural community is for a better way of life. They had a desire for a simpler, slower-paced life in a safe, affordable community with good access to outdoor recreation.
This was especially true after the past few years of the pandemic and the increasing crime and violence in large cities. The pandemic also allowed many people to work remotely, making their job something they could do from home, which could be somewhere other than the big city.
Although Elizabethton is gaining jobs due to the expansion of Snap-on Tools, earlier this year A.Y. McDonald industrial plant in the Watauga Industrial Park in Elizabethton announced that it will be transitioning to a new plant in Bristol in less than two years. The company is Carter
County’s second-largest industrial employer.
We wish more could have been done to keep the company in Elizabethton. Regretfully, while we win some, we lose some.
We feel that Elizabethton and Carter County is on the move with the downtown growing with new businesses and new activity. It reminds us that our small, locally-owned businesses are the heart of our community. These locally owned and operated businesses are a great place to shop, to dine or get a refreshing drink.
Besides generating business, hiring local people and paying local property taxes, small businesses contribute to all those great local events and activities that many communities enjoy – like youth sports, concerts and parades.
The Elizabethton community is blessed with great industries and businesses, which provide jobs for our working people, enabling them to own homes, automobiles, and make a living for their families.

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