The Blount County Economic Development Council met last Thursday with supporters and stakeholders to deliver its 2018 annual growth report. BCEDC’s executive director, Don Mitchell, and development coordinator, Lisa Baker, explained the organization provides services and acts as a conduit between local government and the business community. BCEDC staff work to attract new businesses and to foster expansion of those already existing. They reported that in the last year, through the work of the BCEDC, over $20 million has been invested locally in the commercial sector, 294 jobs have been saved or created, and the county has gained 15 new or expanding industries. Since 2014, sales tax revenue has increased by $3.2 million. Mitchell explained some basic economics – creating jobs or increasing salaries means more money spent in Blount County at retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses, which may then have to hire more employees to keep up with the growth. More jobs means even more money being spent, and that translates into more tax revenue, allowing local government to provide better services.
Dr. Vickie Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College, gave a presentation noting the importance of the school’s partnership with the BCEDC, the county commission, and the city of Oneonta. She said it was a “symbiotic relationship” that benefited everyone involved. “It’s about job creation, workforce development, and economic development.” She expressed her excitement about the expansion of the school’s satellite campus in Oneonta, which is needed; enrollment there is currently at 860 students. That number is expected to grow with the expanded campus, because more programs will be offered.
Karolewics spoke about workforce development and how important it is for industry needs to be identified so the educational system can tailor its offerings to meet those needs. “You want your talent pipeline to be job ready.”
The dinner meeting was held at Wallace State’s main campus in Hanceville. The audience consisted of members of Blount County’s legislative delegation, members of the county commission, representatives from several municipalities, educational leaders, and local business leaders.