The recent announcement of Nashville making the short list for Amazon’s new $5 billion second headquarters is confirmation of something anyone visiting Nashville knows — exciting things are happening in Tennessee.
Nashville is not alone. Chattanooga was recently named “Best Town Ever” for the second time, and Garden and Gun Magazine placed Knoxville in its list of Five Surprising Southern Food Towns.
Tennessee’s urban centers are full of new energy.
But our pride in Tennessee stretches far beyond the city limits. Actually, for our cooperative communities, that’s where it begins. Exciting things are happening in rural Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development reports that in 2017, 45 percent of all new Tennessee jobs — more than 9,700 — were created in the state’s rural counties. Tyson Foods recently announced plans to bring 1,800 jobs to Gibson and Obion counties. Monogram Refrigeration is bringing 200 jobs to McNairy County, and Textile Recruitment of America will be bringing more than 1,000 jobs to Bledsoe County.
These are just the big ones. Dozens of other businesses are expanding to create hundreds of new jobs and invest millions of dollars in rural Tennessee.
The economic impact of these communities affects the entire state. More than 2.4 million people call rural Tennessee home, and these residents account for nearly 30 percent of personal incomes for the entire state.
The economic contributions made by Tennessee’s rural communities are significant. That’s why electric co-ops work hard to make the rural and suburban areas we serve stronger and better prepared to compete in the modern economy. Our interest in rural communities goes far beyond energy.
Co-ops support economic development agencies that help recruit jobs and investment. Co-op youth programs help prepare a new generation of community leaders. Our taxes and payroll have significant impact on rural communities — often our co-ops are among the largest taxpayers in their counties. And, thanks to a recent change to state law, co-ops are on the leading edge of a movement that will bring high-speed internet to previously unserved areas.
With so much going on in our great state, perhaps it is no coincidence that the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association chose Nashville for its annual meeting site this year. In February, more than 8,000 electric co-op leaders were in town to talk about their passion for their communities and commitment to strengthening rural America.
Addressing the attendees at the meeting was Aaron Lay, a senior from Sequoyah High School. Aaron represented Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative during the 2017 Washington Youth Tour, a program sponsored by co-ops designed to teach rural high school students about government and public policy. On the trip, Aaron’s peers from 46 other states voted him national spokesperson. That is a big honor and serves as proof that talent and opportunity run deep in rural Tennessee.
Electric co-ops are and always have been advocates for rural communities and champions for their success. We’re building the future, and we’re doing it in rural Tennessee.
Rural communities matter, and co-ops matter to rural communities.