Broadband Access Helps Shrink Distressed Tennessee Counties

Posted: November 18, 2021

Economic development, vocational training, and ag programs have the state moving in the right direction

More Tennesseans have a greater chance of success as the number of distressed counties continues to drop across the state.

Classified among the top 10% of economically burdened counties in the nation, the nine distressed counties in Tennessee include Bledsoe, Clay, Cocke, Grundy, Hancock, Lake, Lauderdale, Perry, and Scott.

Compiled by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the economic status of each U.S. county is assessed on several factors, including three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate.

At the start of Governor Bill Lee’s term, there were 15 distressed counties.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to do this during Governor Lee’s short tenure,” says Tennessee Broadband Association (TNBA) Executive Director Levoy Knowles. “My hat’s off to Gov. Lee and his staff to help bring more industry and broadband to the rural areas. It’s also another testament to our TNBA members and how they’re helping improve the standard of living in our state.”

Contributing to the dwindling number of distressed counties is broadband expansion, investment in high school vocational training programs, agricultural education programs, and increased access to rural health care.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, rural Tennessee has attracted 132 projects with more than 23,000 new job commitments and $12.6 billion in capital investment since 2019.

Tennessee, including rural parts of the state, is leading in economic development.