DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County commissioners "sent a message to Monroe" Tuesday, approving a resolution to purchase property for La-Z-Boy's local trucking needs.
County Executive George Thacker said following the unanimous vote, "This is the first time this commission has done something we can point to and say, 'We brought these jobs here.' We're sending a message to Monroe [Mich., La-Z-Boy's corporate headquarters] that we want jobs and we want La-Z-Boy here. We want expansion here."
A week ago, La-Z-Boy General Manager Bimbo McCawley said the company-owned England trucking company needs space for its vehicles that serve the local operation. He said then that 40 local jobs already have been created anticipating this action, and another 40 to 50 positions could be created. The trucking jobs would pay $50,000 to $55,000 per year, he said.
Tuesday night, Commission Vice Chairwoman Emmaly Fisher said that while she supports the move, she questions whether Rhea County residents actually will get those jobs.
"I think this is a good idea. But I think we need to be realistic about the jobs created," she said. "I don't think 80 people in this county are going to apply for a CDL [commercial driver's license] and become long-distance truckers."
The resolution to purchase 3.99 acres across Walnut Grove Road from the La-Z-Boy plant passed without further discussion.
Thacker said he had been working with La-Z-Boy officials since last fall when civic and government leaders agreed that economic development efforts should be directed toward taking "care of what we have."
He pointed out that La-Z-Boy already has hired more than 300 people this year, and he and McCawley suggested the company may be considering future expansions.
In other matters, commissioners adopted a resolution supporting Roane County's efforts to secure a Veterans Administration hospital in the former Roane Medical Center.
Roane County Executive Ronald Woody, in a letter accompanying the resolution, said about 80,000 veterans in the region could be served by the proposed facility, removing the need for trips to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to the closest existing veterans' hospital.
Commissioner Bill Hollin, who supported the resolution, said Rhea County had offered its former hospital for a similar purpose several years ago, but without results.
"I hope they are successful," he said. "But I think they're barking up the wrong tree."
Tom Davis is a resident of Rhea County and can be contacted at email@example.com.