By Brooke Stevenson
The economy in Sevier County is making a slow but steady recovery, according to officials.
Allen Newton, Executive Director of the Sevier County Economic Development Council, expects to see an upswing in the county’s economy this year, but said it is unlikely to ever get back to where the county was three years ago.
He also said that the recent rash of bad weather has not affected local businesses more than normal.
“Obviously when you have rain, lots of rain, people don’t get out,” Newton said. “The weather has an effect, especially on a tourist destination.
“The better the weather the more people will come, that is just the way it is,” Newton said.
He added that the weather, despite Sevier County being designated as one of five counties in Tennessee as a primary disaster area due to heavy rains, has not affected local businesses more than rainy and cold weather normally would.
“If it is pouring down rain people are not going to get out,” he said.
Even though this time of year is typically slow for businesses to open, there are several looking to move into the county.
A couple small manufacturers and some retail businesses have shown interest in moving into Sevier County as of 2010, but that is fairly typical according to Newton.
He has not heard of any new businesses showing interest in the Seymour area specifically, but would not rule it out as a possibility as the year progresses.
“January and February are very slow times for new businesses,” he added. “Normally people will start calling the office in March or April about doing new business."
Development is normally fairly quiet from Thanksgiving to March, but Newton expects more developments coming into the county in 2010 than there were in 2009.
The announcement and beginning stages of construction on the Lisega plant in Sevierville is one of the most significant county developments in 2009, said Newton.
“That has certainly been a nice project,” he added. “They are going to employ initially about 280 employees.”
Lisega is a worldwide leader in pipe support systems. Their products range from hangers, spring hangers and heavy-duty shock absorbers to individual customer-related products, such as special hangers and structural adaptations for the power generation market.
Newton believes expects even more expansions and developments in the year to come.
“We are starting to see signs of businesses being willing to expand, relocate, and the activity from the state has increased a little bit as far as prospects out there looking to move into the general region,” he said.
While he expects 2010 to be more positive than last year, he believes it will take another year to be back on track.
“People are having a hard time getting credit to build anything, and that is not the banks fault, and if you can’t get credit things are naturally going to be slow,” he said. “That is what we are going through right now.
“The banks, because of new regulations and bank examiners, cannot lend money like they used to. That is the biggest thing that has to be fixed to turn the economy around.
"Our local banks are great banks, but their hands are tied.”
In Newton’s opinion one of the biggest issues holding the economy back is that people don’t have the money on hand to pay for an expansion or new building.
“It is not our local banks’ fault,” he said. “They are doing everything they possibly can to be helpful.
“I don’t think it will ever get back to where it was two or three years ago, but I think you’ll see development.”
Newton believes this is the first time that the county has felt the real affects of the national economy and is hopeful in the fact that Sevier is not as negatively affected as other areas in the country.
“We have a lot to be thankful for here in Sevier County,” he said.
Local Economy Expected to Turn Around
By Brooke Stevenson