As he spoke to the Cleveland Rotary Club on Tuesday afternoon, he gave a few highlights of things he said had contributed to the county’s progress.
The area’s focus on “regionalism” and “changing the culture” of competition among area cities and counties has pushed things in the right direction, Davis said. He added he had seen more of a willingness to work together, as evidenced by the companies that have been attracted to the area.
One such company has been Wacker. It has been in the process of building a plant in Charleston that takes up the equivalent of four or five city blocks and is set to employ 650 people, he said.
“It’s truly becoming a small city,” Davis said.
Again using Wacker as an example, he stressed that the presence of companies like it creates a lot of income for the county. Wacker “partially goes on the tax rolls” this year.
Davis said he was also grateful that companies like Mars Chocolate, Olin Clor Alkalai and Duracell/Procter & Gamble have continued to invest in the county.
As more and more companies have set up shop in Bradley County, he said it has seen the lowest unemployment rate it has in a long time — 6.4 percent.
While he acknowledged that some might say the number is still not good enough, Davis said it is a better number than the ones facing neighboring counties. For example, he said Hamilton County was facing an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, while Rhea County has faced a whopping 10.3 percent.
Other focuses of 2013 included upgrading some of the county’s highways and byways and working to provide more emergency services to a growing population.
In what Davis called “the biggest challenge of the past year,” Bradley County built, stocked and staffed three new fire stations.
This meant more people now have a fire station closer to them in the event of an emergency. The county also gained an additional 34 full-time firefighters.
“Without a doubt, Bradley County has the best fire protection in Tennessee,” Davis said.
The county is awaiting its next ISO audit, the result of which is a nationally recognized number that is often used by insurance companies to determine how much a county will pay. Davis said the new fire stations would likely bode well for the ISO score that should be released within the next few months because an area having more fire stations means there is a lower risk for things going wrong.
Progress has also continued on projects to make changes to the bridge at Exit 20 off Interstate 75 and the Durkee Road and Benton Pike area, near the Whirlpool plant. Additionally, a project to revamp an interchange along APD 40 is set to begin next year. All the pending infrastructure upgrades have become necessary because of the area’s continued growth, Davis said.
On the budgetary side of things, the county’s most Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released by the state comptroller’s office showed positive results overall.
The county paid off $3.8 million of its outstanding debts. However, those paying close attention to the audit will notice that the county’s overall debt was only reduced by $1.1 million.
That, Davis said, was because the county paid off part of the debt then immediately borrowed more money to pay for the fire stations. Still, he said things were moving in the right direction.
In the meantime, he said Bradley County will be continuing to look for ways to both foster the area’s growth and still keep up with it at the same time.
“Hopefully 2014, 2015 should be even better,” said Davis.