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Dandridge, Tennessee

December 5, 2011

Scores Linked to County Development & Industrial Growth
Staff Photo / White Pine Christmas Parade
Education Increasingly More Important 

As Jefferson County prepares for 2012 and moves to identify itself as a County, the time for serious assessment is here. Unemployment rates in Jefferson County are higher than the State average and the poverty level in the County exceeds both the Sate and National level by several points. Job opportunities that provide at least a mid level income are scarce and those that provide an above average living wage are almost non existent in the County. The post secondary education level in Jefferson County is at a three decade low, with significantly fewer Jefferson County residents holding a college degree or beyond than in the 1980s. Though the number of high school graduates in the County has risen since the 1980s, some of that increase is due to generational constraints of Jefferson County residents that were schooled prior to the 1950s, during which time completion of a high school education was not necessary to be viable in the work force. A decrease in numbers, through natural decline, may have contributed in the rise in number of high school graduates in Jefferson County. 

Many Companies are dependent on Knowledge Strategy to keep them competitive in the corporate world. These companies actively seek communities that are educated or show preparation for career success. Companies are turning to education indicators such as higher education statistics and a communities ACT scores as an indicator for successful location in an area. The ACT test is commonly considered to be a college entrance exam and is given to every Jefferson County High School student in the spring of their Junior year. In fact, these scores also point to the level of career readiness. Jefferson County students lagged behind their Tennessee counterparts in college and career readiness, falling below State averages. Tennessee as a whole showed poorly, coming in at the bottom of the list when compared Nationally. Companies looking to locate in the area are more likely to be attracted to an area that has a educated work force. The few Jefferson County residents that have post secondary education are either relocating to areas with greater economic opportunities or commuting outside the County for employment.

Progressive communities that welcome economic opportunities and push post secondary education, even for one year, are more likely to be attractive to corporations that have better salary structures. Jefferson County is seated in a advantageous location, being within easy commute of several college campuses. Tennessee offers a dual enrollment grant that allows student in high school to attend college on a grant. Surrounding States, such as North Carolina, are pushing students to begin accumulating some post secondary credits while still in high school, thus cutting down the chances of the student losing interest after graduation. 

Education and capacity for Knowledge are quickly becoming the deciding factors in attracting employment opportunities in a community. Investing in the post secondary future of every student in Jefferson County could contribute in bringing in good economic opportunities locally. With the influx of Corporations that pay decent wages, there will be more opportunities for college educated residents to be employed in the County. The more college educated residents in Jefferson County, the more corporations that should be attracted to the area, bringing positive growth and continuing the economic cycle.

Iranian Government Claims Shooting Down US Drone

No Confirmation From US Forces

Drones have been an integral part of the war on terror and reportedly played a significant role in the eventual death of Osama bin Laden. Now the Iranian government is claiming to have shot down a drone that was in the Country’s airspace. Iran is reporting that a RQ-170 unmanned “spy plane” was shot down by Iran’s armed forces and was now in their possession. There has been some tension lately regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. The United States and Allies are concerned that there is intent to develop nuclear weapons, though Iran denies the allegations, claiming that the program has peaceful intentions. Iranian Military are calling the alleged downing of the drone a strong response to an invasion of their airspace. A United State’s Military Spokesman in Iraq stated that he has not received any operational report that could confirm the incident. Iran made similar claims in the summer, only to amend them later as a training exercise. The RQ-170 Sentinel is a surveillance aircraft equipped with stealth technology, though the Air Force has not released specifics about the craft. Meanwhile, the United States is working to repair relations with Pakistan after lasts weeks incident resulting in multiple Pakistani casualties. NATO has described the incident as tragic, though unintentional. The United States is conducting an investigation into the miscommunication and resulting attack on Pakistani troops. The report is expected to be available later this month.

After spending a month on celebrating the Holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and ending with Christmas, overindulgence appears to be the norm. From exceeding normal alcohol intake limits to one more piece of pie, the lasting effects of the Holidays can be more than an unwanted headache or a few extra pounds. In fact, many health care professionals consider December 26 to be the most dangerous day of the year. According to a study done by the University of California, incidents of heart related deaths increase by 5% during the Holidays and, in a separate study, it was discovered that hospital visits increased 33% during the four days after Christmas for heart related problems. 

Some physicians believe that people ignore the warning signs on Christmas Day and simply write off any discomfort to indigestion from overeating. The Holiday Season also brings with it other stressors such as financial worries and visiting relatives. It is important to be aware of the physical responses of your body during times of stress. During the cold winter months, the blood vessels constrict and blood pressure can rise. This is a serious situation for anyone who already battles high blood pressure. Those on a special diet for health reasons, such as heart trouble or diabetes, may find themselves straying from the diet. Having more than one drink can trigger an atrial fibrillation, which may or may not correct itself. It is a leading cause of strokes.  It is important to listen to what your body is telling you and to take no chances with any symptoms. If there is any reason for concern, seek medical attention. 

Corker Says One-Year Extension of Payroll Tax Cut Undermines Long-Term Tax Reform

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., last week voted against a one-year extension of the temporary payroll tax cut, believing it undermines the type of tax reform that leads to long-term economic growth.

“This extension is yet another example of Washington’s benefit now, pay later mentality, and it moves us further away from solving our long-term spending and deficit problems. We need to simplify and flatten our tax code in a way that eliminates loopholes, broadens the base and reduces rates across the board, making it more efficient and conducive to long-term growth. There seems to be a lot of bipartisan consensus around these concepts, but this extension takes us in the opposite direction. It’s not the way to govern a country that has the huge economic, spending and deficit issues we have right now,” said Corker. “In addition, funding Social Security in this manner turns it into a welfare program over time.” 

Jefferson County Real Estate Markets Show Signs of Upturn
True Rebound or Anomaly?

There are some indications that the real estate market in Jefferson County may be starting to show tendencies toward rebounding after a few dismal years. During the month of November, some industry statistics show a 13% increase in inventory of property available for purchase in the County. The rise in property owners willingness to place their homes for sale could indicate more confidence in the local economy. Though the average asking price per home was slightly down during November, the number of foreclosures and short sales did not move. Another factor that could point to a boost in confidence in the economic climate is the decrease in days that property was on the market in November, coming in at an average of 83 days compared to 111 days one month ago and 147 days this time last year. Fewer price reduction of property already on the market and an increase of around $9 per square foot above last years average during the month of November shows Jefferson County trending in a positive way. The median list price of a home in Jefferson County is around $200,000, give or take a few thousand depending on the month. This number exceeds the median list price in Tennessee by nearly $50,000. 

Though the appearance is that property is much higher priced in Jefferson County than in other areas across the State, it is important to remember that Jefferson County has a large amount of lake property and that statistics are not for like properties in other Counties. The apparent upswing in taxpayer confidence in the economy comes at a time when conflicting information regarding a recession double dip plagues the Nation. Small indicators, such as a boom in automobile sales and a successful beginning to the Holiday Shopping Season, point to a better year economically. The National debt crisis and a possible further downgrade in the Nation’s credit ranking have some economist anticipating another downswing. Locally, the County appears to have conflicting information, as well. 

The bump in the housing market is at odds with the high unemployment numbers that Jefferson County has been posting during recent months. It is too early to anticipate if the real estate market in Jefferson County will continue to rebound, or if this is simply an anomaly. Traditionally, housing sales slow during the Holidays and colder winter months, picking up again during the Spring. Should the County continue to trend upward during the selling off season, it could indicate that Jefferson County is on the road to economic recovery.

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