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Tenn. County Working To Build On Stimulus Job Gain

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) ¿ Perry County officials are looking for ways to make job gains more permanent after short-term federal stimulus money helped cut unemployment in the rural Tennessee county from the nation's highest rate in May to 16.4 percent in November.

In May, Gov. Phil Bredesen announced a plan to bring 300 government and private sector jobs to Perry County by using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other federal funds through September 2010.

The county's unemployment rate was 25 percent at the time, the nation's highest, according to Perry County Mayor John Carroll. The figure was down to 16.4 percent in November, the latest tally. The state's overall unemployment rate in November was 10.3 percent, down from 10.5 percent the month before, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

"We still have a high unemployment rate, but it would be significantly higher had Governor Bredesen's recovery program not been implemented," Carroll said.

Carroll is hoping to maintain his county's unemployment rate ¿ or possibly lower it ¿ when the stimulus money stops. The mayor, along with other county and state officials, met Dec. 17 with an economic development specialist who outlined ways the county can boost its economy in the long term.

The main recommendation from Mark Williams, president of Columbia, S.C.-based Strategic Development Group, is to take a "diversified approach" and not be so industry oriented.

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