Carter County to work with city to invest in workforce

After receiving $50,000 in the ThreeStar grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, local leaders are already working on solidifying plans on where to invest this new money.

Carter County Mayor Russell Barnett said the news was very rewarding, if not a surprise.

“I was surprised we got the full amount,” Barnett said.

Dozens of counties applied for this grant, aimed towards promoting economic development in a variety of different ways, but only a few counties received the full $50,000.

The mayor’s office said this year’s focus was on workforce development.

“We have a declining population,” mayor’s assistant Abby Frye said. “The median age is 40.4 years old.”

This means, she said, the population of Carter County is both decreasing and getting older, making the need for younger, more skilled workers in the labor force even more important.

“Younger people are having to leave the area to find higher-wage jobs,” Frye said.

They said the county aims to focus their efforts towards workforce development by investing in the school systems in the area.

Barnett said they plan to meet with city and county school leaders, as well as officials from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, which regularly changes their programs based on the local needs of the workforce.

“We have to show people we have the facts laid out,” Barnett said. “We are not only talking. We are finally doing something about it.”

Frye said many people think the recent addition of the Tennessee Promise, a program allowing many new students to enter state colleges, is enough to cover the gap.

She said this is not the case, as the program does not cover expensive textbooks, room and board, meal plans or anything else a student may end up needing.

“Every student will have a chance,” she said.

Barnett said more detailed plans are still in the works, though he did say he wanted to pay attention to providing adequate transportation for students who have difficulty making it to school every day.

“We want this out that we are working hard to help our students,” he said. “It takes a team effort.”

Barnett said they are also working on a Workforce Development grant through the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce, though they are still awaiting confirmation about their status.

He said the future meeting with school leaders does not yet have a set date, though when it does, he said the community is free to attend.

For more information, contact the mayor’s office at 423-542-1801.

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