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State Economic Officials Aim for Zero Economically Distressed Counties by 2025

Jennifer McEachern, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The federal government says 84 counties in the thirteen-state region classified as "Appalachia" are economically distressed. That designation comes from tracking income levels, unemployment rates and poverty rates. Using the same criteria, Tennessee officials say seventeen of the state's 95 counties are distressed.

In April, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe visited East Tennessee to talk about improving life in economically distressed counties so rapidly that there would be none by the year 2025.

Doing so, he says, will take the combined efforts of local, state and federal governments. It will involve businesses, education, internet access and communities across Tennessee. And, since officials have been fighting to improve Appalachia's economy for more than half a century, it will undoubtedly be difficult to achieve.

In this interview with WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth, ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development Amy New talk about the current situation, the hurdles to economic growth and how the "zero by 2025" plan is supposed to work.