West Tennessee Receives $2.9 Million in Grants
Carroll County Excluded
BY JASON MARTIN
The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) announced $2.9 million in new DRA investments in regards to strengthening Tennessee’s infrastructure, workforce and economy. The western portion of Tennessee is one of eight states to receive DRA investments. The agency’s total investments in the Mississippi River Delta Region and Black Belt of Alabama will reach $20 million in 2017.
Missing from the equation is McKenzie and especially Carroll County. It is not due to a lack of effort on the behalf of McKenzie. Blaine Campbell, owner and president of Campbell Arms Manufacturing of McKenzie, was part of a grant request totaling $300,000. Campbell’s new plant will produce approximately 50 jobs once fully operational.
According to DRA officials, although called federal funding, a portion of the agency works closely with Governor Bill Haslam and his board designee to identify projects that receive States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP) investments. At the time of publication, state officials claim the DRA acts on its own accord and it works independent from the state. In essence, recommendations come from the state.
Campbell Arms was asked by the state to consider Tennessee as a possible location. After choosing Tennessee and specifically McKenzie, Campbell and his investors were under the assumption from the DRA a grant was coming their way. After investments were made into infrastructure improvements, DRA left Campbell Arms out of the funding.
The supposed thoughtful and deliberative process to consider all projects by the Delta Regional Authority has worked against McKenzie. It appears recommendations are being retracted for whatever reason. Luckily for McKenzie, Mr. Campbell is a man of his word and will continue to work toward the opening of the new facility.
Carroll County is labeled Tier 4 by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Tiers 3 and 4 are classified as counties in distress, and qualify for greater assistance from the State of Tennessee.
Larger communities with a stronger economic base received funding from the DRA. Many of which are not classified as Tier 4 like Carroll County. The 2017 DRA grant year for Tennessee had 24 applicants requesting $5.8 million in funding.
Memphis (Tier 2) received two grants totally $325,000 in the name of workforce training and support for entrepreneurial companies. The City of Bells (Tier 2) walked away with $200,000 for workforce training to support the renovation of the interior of the downtown Bells Theater. Union City (Tier 3) received $300,000 for support business expansion. The City of Selmer (Tier 4) received $800,000 for business expansion and job creation.
The possibility of other grants from the state and contingency money through DRA still exist.
There is an unemployment problem in Carroll County. People are leaving this area to find work. Records indicate Carroll County’s number of employed has dropped from 11,500 in 2009 to 11,130 in 2017. Carroll County’s population is also in retrograde as the 2010 population was 28,522 and 2017 shows 28,092.
McKenzie and Carroll County must work together in order to grow. We must encourage not only the state of Tennessee to help us but also supporting agencies like the Delta Regional Authority.