Davis: ‘Exciting’ time to live here
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Jan 11, 2013 | 1075 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
D. Gary Davis
D. Gary Davis
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“I believe it’s an exciting time to live in Bradley County,” Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis told the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland Thursday in a “State of the County” speech.

Davis pointed to increased jobs, decreased unemployment and a large number of building permits as indications the local economy is slowly improving.

“Things are going well, but going well in tough times, to say the least,” Davis said.

In 2012, there were $388 million worth of building permits for various projects throughout Bradley County. Davis said this is an indicator of businesses and growth coming to the county.

“These are all very good signs that we are slowly but surely growing our way out of this recession, and at least here in Southeast Tennessee doing our part to raise the revenue we need,” Davis said.

Revenues in Bradley County have been flat for the past few years. However, Davis said there are some counties in Tennessee which have seen decreases in revenue.

Bradley County has a lower unemployment rate than many surrounding counties, at 6.8 percent. Davis said some surrounding counties have unemployment in double digits.

He said growth, not raising property taxes, is the best way to raise revenues for the county. According to Davis, Bradley County has not had a property tax increase in 12 years.

“The last tax increase we had in Bradley County was 100 percent for schools,” Davis said.

The increase went toward Walker Valley High School.

The mayor said the cost of living in Bradley County is also something to be thankful for in a tough economy.

“The cost of living in Bradley County is 7.7 percent lower that the national average,” Davis said.

Davis said more than 800 new full-time jobs have been created in Bradley County since September 2012. Another 800 seasonal jobs were filled at Amazon last year.

Although some may emphasize that these were only seasonal jobs, Davis said those who filled the positions were thankful “for those pretty good paying seasonal jobs.”

Wacker also contributed to jobs in the county by hiring 200 of a projected 650 employees.

Many jobs were also saved in Bradley County when Whirlpool and Olin decided to stay local.

Davis emphasized that payment in lieu of tax agreements were a major part of creating and keeping these jobs.

One highlight for the county in 2012 was agreeing to participate in funding a joint-venture industrial park.

Davis said moving forward with the expansion of Bradley County Fire-Rescue is a major endeavor for 2013.

“The county will be taking over fire protection outside the city limits July 1,” Davis said.

The addition of three fire stations with full-time personnel will provide better fire coverage to county residents outside the city.

Davis said the Long-Term Recovery Organization was an important part of community recovery after the March 2012 tornado outbreak. Although the organization is largely inactive at the moment, it will continue to exist for when it is needed.

Restoration of the Cleveland depot was also a highlight for the mayor.

“If you’ve not been in the building as it is now, you need to go see it,” Davis said.

A Kiwanian asked about the county’s plan to pay down debt. Davis said the county pays on the principal every year.

“They can and will be paid with existing revenue,” Davis said.

A recent email to the mayor, Davis said, complained about the county’s increase in debt since he came in office.

“We had $26 million in debt (when I came in office). We hadn’t built a school in 20 years. We hadn’t built a jail in 20 years, and we had never built a juvenile center,” Davis said. “We had schools that were falling down.”

Now every public school in Bradley County has been renovated in some way, he said.