CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis expressed optimism Tuesday about the county's fiscal well-being and its positioning for industrial development when he spoke to the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
"2013 was a pretty good year," Davis said in his annual address on the state of the county. "All things considered, it was a really good year."
He said cultivating and maintaining a regional perspective for local governments, businesses and other community stakeholders has been an important part of boosting economic development in the area encompassing Southeast Tennessee, Northeast Alabama and Northwest Georgia, he said.
Davis said embracing a culture of regional cooperation by the cities and counties in the area over the last 10 years has played a "big part" in the success of Cleveland and Bradley County.
A regional outlook played a big role in attracting new industrial partners such as Volkswagen, Wacker Chemical and Amazon, he said.
When those new industries are combined with major reinvestments by local industries such as M&M Mars, Duracell, Whirlpool and Olin, the impact can be seen in the county's economy, Davis said.
He cited the county's recent jobless rate of 6.4 percent and job growth of 2.9 percent as indicators of its relatively good economic health. Nearby counties have jobless rates at 7 percent or higher, Davis said.
In light of a national economy that has not quite recovered, local economic figures looked quite positive, he said. However, he wants those figures to improve as soon as possible, Davis said.
He also said things are looking good for the county's finances, and a recent audit revealed no material weaknesses or deficiencies in internal control over major programs.
Bradley County's net position -- what would be considered net assets if the county were a business -- amounted to $27.8 million, Davis said. That is a $3 million increase over the previous year. The county also reduced its debt by a net $1.1 million, he said.
In other business, Davis introduced Dr. Lindsay L. Hathcock, who was recently named to serve as executive assistant to the Bradley County mayor.
Hathcock is a lifelong resident of Bradley County and the former owner of a private practice chiropractic facility, according to a news release. He served on the Bradley County Commission for 12 years and on a number of local government and health care boards.
"This area, community and residents have given so much to me and our family and I feel that it truly is my duty to 'give back' to those who have blessed our family over the decades," Hathcock said.
He replaces Dan Howell, who left the office to seek election to the Tennessee State District 22 House seat, which includes Polk, Meigs and Bradley counties.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.