SNEEDVILLE – Wanted: Business to come to Tennessee’s most economically distressed county.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced Tuesday the launch of an open search for a company to establish operations in Hancock County as part of “Project 95,” a new initiative designed to marshal resources from multiple state agencies.
Beginning with Hancock County, Project 95 is part of TNECD’s long-term strategy to eliminate all federally-designated distressed counties across Tennessee by 2025.
Alongside federal and local partners, the State of Tennessee will construct an approximately 17,000-square-foot facility in the Hancock County Industrial Park designed for a call center operation. TNECD said the investment in the building and site is about $2 million. Five hundred thousand is coming from the state's Rural Economic Opportunity Fund, with the rest coming from federal partners.
TNECD is seeking a company to locate up to 200 jobs at the Sneedville call center, which is scheduled to be ready for a corporate tenant in the fall of 2018. The Sneedville building will be customized to tenant needs and available to lease at no cost to the selected company, according to TNECD.
“We’ve recognized that many of Tennessee’s rural areas are struggling to keep up even as the state’s larger metro areas grow dramatically,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in a prepared release. “That’s one of the big reasons why TNECD has provided millions of dollars for rural Tennessee communities over the past few years.
“Project 95 goes a step further by bringing together several state agencies and concentrating our efforts on Tennessee’s most distressed community, Hancock County. This new call center can support up to 200 new jobs – jobs that can have a transformative effect on the people of Hancock County.”
Project 95 is a multi-departmental project that has combined statewide resources to create a holistic solution for Hancock County, which for the past number of years has ranked at or near the bottom of Tennessee counties in poverty rate, unemployment, per capita income and other economic indicators.
Other state departments actively involved with Project 95 include the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Tourist Development, Department of Education, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Health.
TNECD said the partnership of these state agencies will offer tailored workforce development programs, youth literacy programs, substance abuse programs and other initiatives to help support Hancock County.
“We’re excited about Project 95 coming to fruition,” Hancock County Mayor Thomas Harrison said. “Hancock County is fortunate to have the support of many partners at the state that are looking out for the best interests of our community. Over the last decade, Hancock County has lost a few hundred jobs. The impact of what 150-plus jobs could do for our community and residents is enormous.”
TNECD is accepting applications from businesses interested in establishing a call center at the Sneedville location. The deadline for submissions will close in September and TNECD plans to select a tenant by the close of 2017.