by Ryan Egly
As evidenced by the solid score of 23% on my first (and only) calculus exam, I’m not a mathematician. In college, I gravitated towards writing-intensive coursework and away from anything to do with numbers. Of course, it is supremely ironic that I now spend most of my time making sense of numbers; quantifying and qualifying data.
When I started at the Chamber in August 2015, I often found myself frustrated with the data that painted a picture of Lawrence County. I found that the sources available to our team, usually a year or two behind, did not reflect the actual economic recovery our community was experiencing. Admittedly, most of my frustration was fueled by my desire for those outside of Lawrence County to understand the potential and true nature of our community; a community full of people that work hard, play hard, pray hard, and want to see “home” be the best it can be.
Unfortunately, data points like these don’t exist:
– Lawrence Countians work 80% harder than County A
– Lawrence Countians, on average, have a 100% better day than County B
– Lawrence Countians care about their community 30% more than County C
The quality of our community can only be experienced. People moving here, visiting here, and seeking to develop their business here must see it first-hand. However, for Lawrence County to make it to the shortlist of economic development projects, a tourist’s itinerary, a young family’s community check-list, or a retiree’s downsizing desires, we must be able to use numbers; we must quantify our growth.
Today, I am writing to provide a snapshot of the growth quantified and cited by both internal and, now, national sources.
Learning the Right Way
Our school system has always helped Lawrence County stand out. Historically, our students outperform neighboring districts and our Career & Technical Education programs actually put students to work. In fact, as many districts across the state are re-igniting K-12 CTE programs, we are able to simply throw gas on our CTE fire; growing and refining each program per industry demand. Here’s what this means by the numbers:
– Lawrence County Schools boasts the highest high school graduation rate (94.6%) among systems that serve 3,500+ students in Southern Middle Tennessee (TN Dept. of Education 2018)
– 66.4% of our high school seniors graduated AND concentrated in Career & Technical Education (#3 in the region behind only Perry & Moore Counties) (TN Dept. of Education)
– In the 2018/2019 school year, students earned 1,013 industry certifications (OSHA 10, MOS, CNA, MLR) (LCSS)
Lawrence County has long been home to a diverse economy that employs people from both here at home and neighboring counties. We have also been recognized as a larger community in our region. In fact, by county population, we are the largest between Chattanooga and Memphis on Tennessee’s southern border. Our proximity to Nashville and Huntsville, Columbia and The Shoals have provided nearby career opportunities to our citizens. We know that more than 9,000 of our residents commute to these opportunities each day. Half of these workers are employed by manufacturing industries, while the other half are employed in the business and healthcare sectors. With the rise of remote working, our community is poised to capture a new mix of both blue and white collar jobs. In short, we don’t only have a labor force; we have one that works. There are more people working in Lawrence County today than any other time in our history. By the numbers:
– 38% of high school students age 15+ have jobs (double the national average) (LCSS)
– From May ’18 to May ’19, 990 Lawrence Countians found a job (TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development)
– 1,050 people joined the Lawrence County labor force from May ’18 to May ’19 (TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development)
Growing on all Fronts
With great schools and access to career opportunities both at home and nearby, Lawrence County has seen more than its fair share of growth. Tourists are spending more money than ever before. Families are making more money than ever before. More businesses are being started or expanded here than ever before. We are growing faster than any other time in our history. By the numbers:
– Tourist expenditures in Lawrence County surpassed $40 million for the first time ever in 2017 (TN Dept. of Tourist Development)
– From 2017 to 2018, Median Household Income increased more than 10% (more than 5x the norm) (US Census Bureau)
– Eight companies have committed to create more than 800 jobs in Lawrence County since 2016 (Lawrence Co. Chamber)
– Sales tax revenue for the City of Loretto increased 11.3% from Spring ‘18 to Spring ‘19
– Of the 3,142 counties in the United States, Lawrence County jumped in economic ranking 514 spots from 2,897th in 2013 to 2,313rd in 2019. This move took us from being an economic distressed county (bottom 10% in the nation) to an at-risk county (bottom 25% in the nation) to, now, a transitional county (Appalachian Regional Commission)
A Family A Day
Of all the numbers I’ve looked over, one stands out. It’s one that tells me that people are experiencing and enjoying our community. It’s the number FOUR (4). It means this:
– A Family A Day: 4 people moved to Lawrence County each day in 2018 (US Census Bureau)
New homes are being built throughout the county. We are welcoming new neighbors and making new friends. Our community is becoming more vibrant as new retail opportunities have opened and more are coming. No, it’s not Nashville growth, but it is growth we can manage. At last, the quality experience people have in Lawrence County is now reflected in quantity.
Ryan Egly | Economic Development Director
Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce
25 B Public Square, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464
o. (931) 762-4911
About the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce
The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is a network of businesses, industries, local governments, utilities, and private citizens that are committed to improving the quality of life in and around the Lawrence County, Tennessee region through economic, tourism, and workforce development. Lawrence County was named a Top 100 Micropolitan area by Site Selection Magazine in 2016 and 2017.