In 1884, President Grover Cleveland sought to ease tensions and end clashes between labor unions, the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals by making Labor Day a national holiday. The proposal was unanimously approved by Congress and since then all 50 states have made Labor Day a state holiday. Today, it is viewed as a way to pay tribute to the hardworking men and women who are the backbone of our economy.
Even though the economy is down and unemployment is up across the U.S., Bradley County has not felt the recession’s impact as severely as some areas in Tennessee. Several factors have combined to help our community weather this economic storm. One of them is our pool of excellent workers.
Our workforce has gone through many changes in the last century. We are far removed from the days of the foundries and textile mills which made Bradley County an industrial center. But these jobs fed our families, built our schools and churches, and laid the groundwork for the future. Our economy, both nationally and locally, is making an unprecedented transition into high-skilled, information-based industries. Bradley County workers are ready.
U.S. Census numbers show that Bradley County had a labor force of 50,080 as of March 2013. The unemployment rate at the time was 7.4 percent. The Census Bureau also determined that the county has enjoyed job growth of 2.89 percent in recent years, with a median household income of $40,032 when the last Census was taken in 2010. Our unemployment rate is still too high. However, it is still below the state and national average, and the future looks very bright for Bradley County workers.
The Census Bureau projects future job growth of 36.78 percent over the next 10 years based on migration patterns and local economic/industrial growth. These figures, coupled with a cost of living that is 7.7 percent lower than the national average, give families in Bradley County reason to be encouraged about our local economy.
Our hardworking, trainable workforce was one of the key elements in attracting Wacker Chemie to Bradley County and the prospect of hundreds of good paying hi-tech jobs. Wacker has already hired many of its engineers, senior chemical operators and lab technicians. Several management positions have also been filled. At last report, the company will be filling several technical operator positions this year.
The Wacker plant, which is still under construction, is proving to be a tremendous asset to the local economy and for workers looking for a good-paying job and long-term career with an outstanding company.
Wacker is just one of several major companies that have chosen to tap into Bradley County’s tremendous workforce.
The new GE lighting distribution center located on Lauderdale Highway now has about 340 employees. Whirlpool chose to keep its appliance manufacturing plant in Cleveland, saving 1,200 jobs and creating many new jobs. The new Amazon fulfillment center has almost doubled its workforce projection and now has more than 450 employees. Through regional cooperation, Volkswagen chose to locate its North American plant and manufacturing headquarters in Hamilton County at Exit 9, just about five miles from the Bradley County line. VW vendors are now looking at Bradley County as a place to locate their supply depots and manufacturing facilities which will potentially create hundreds of additional jobs for Bradley County citizens.
As mayor, I give a lot of credit for these successes to the Bradley County worker. You are one of the main reasons that Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.
Regardless of how you choose to spend this holiday, it’s a good time to reflect upon the economic and social achievements of the American worker, and especially those in Bradley County.
For information about Bradley County government and services, visit our interactive website at www.bradleyco.net.