SNEEDVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee celebrated part of his 60th birthday Wednesday in Hancock County, cutting a ribbon for the more than 100 new jobs coming to one of the state’s least prosperous areas.
Allied Dispatch Services operates call centers, with contracts including AT&T and PepBoys, in Johnson City, TN and Canada. Their latest center now sits in Hancock County. There, the company plans to fill 112 jobs, with a possibility of future expansion.
Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, said their primary objectives, as a department, are attracting business and keeping business in the volunteer state.
Typically, he explained, they’re the first party to initiate a job project. This project was the opposite.
“Something that needs to be happening all over the place,” Lee said.
Thomas Harrison, Hancock County Mayor, said to a crowd Wednesday, months after he took office, in 2010, the only manufacturing plant in the county closed.
“Other than county government, those were the last jobs that were here,” he said. He also explained how the idea of bringing a call center to one of Tennessee’s most rural counties came to be. He credits the idea to Allen Borden, TECD’s Deputy Commissioner of Business, Community and Rural Development.
Harrison said Borden thought because the county has many roads that are difficult to navigate, manufacturing jobs might be a challenge.
He envisioned it being prime for a call center, with the right investment.
That was more than three years ago.
The next obstacle was funding to get the infrastructure in place.
Com. Rolfe said nearly $2.5 million was allocated from state ECD grants, federal Rural Appalachian Regional Commission and USDA grants, to build the facility and ensure the right infrastructure for a call center was in place.
“The whole strategy was to go build a building and hopefully a company would arrive. We picked Hancock County because it’s probably the least prosperous in our state and it’s the 95th county,” Commissioner Rolfe added. “The impact on this county, Hancock County, 100 jobs is just like 1,000 job commitment in one of our urban communities across the state,” Rolfe said.
Deana Collins used to travel more than an hour away from her home in Hancock County to work.
She took a job at Allied Dispatch in April, weeks before she found out she was pregnant.
“It’s closer to home, it’s a money-saver. We’re able to put back money for the child. Daycare is close to home. The hours are great here. They work with my schedule and my husband’s schedule. It just hit the nail on the head,” she said. “There’s really not any job opportunities. Having Allied here, it’s a big deal.”
Governor Lee acknowledges the work on the project began before he was in office. But, he highlighted Wednesday rural development has been, and will continue to be, a priority of his administration.
Ultimately, Gov. Lee hopes to duplicate the public/private partnership all around the state.
“It’s a very important day for this county, but it is actually a model for what needs to happen all across Tennessee. Rural Tennessee is a great focus of our administration.”