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The role and importance of industry in our community

Leadership Anderson County tours local facilitiees

  • Leadership Anderson County participants look at some of the equipment used at Aisin Automotive. - Crystal Huskey

  • Clayton Appalachia plans to expand soon, as shown in this graphic. - Crystal Huskey

On Dec. 3, Leadership Anderson County participants experienced Industry and Economic Development Day.

It’s been a couple of months since this column last went out — that’s because Agriculture Day was canceled last month due to the weather, and I was absent the month before.

The goal of Industry and Economic Development Day’s adventure was to make sure everyone knew the location of the county’s industrial parks and their impact on our community. We were the last class to hear President of the Anderson County Economic Development Association Tim Thompson speak about the county’s growth, since he’ll be retiring this year. He’s made a huge impact on this area over the years.

Our first stop was at Clayton Appalachia Homes, just off of Norris Freeway. It was impressive. They build around six modular every single day from start to finish. But what was most impressive was the company culture. After experiencing a high turnover rate, the company made the decision to try to curb that. They place a strong emphasis on happy employees, and that seemed pretty evident the day we were there. It was a bright, clean, and efficient place to be, and the starting pay is higher than average.

They plan to expand soon and build a large cafeteria for the employees.

Clayton Appalachia opened in 1994, according to our tour guide and plant manager Matt Belcher, and since opening has built over 32,000 homes in Anderson County alone. They employ 245 people.

We also toured Aisin Automotive Casting, SL Tennessee and Eagle Bend Manufacturing.

The work at these plants isn’t easy, and finding people to do it isn’t either.

All the plant managers we spoke to — except for Clayton — talked about the challenges of keeping good people. Finding people willing to show up for work on time and pass a drug test is harder than you’d think, according to some of the managers.

Anderson County Chamber of Commerce President Rick Meredith ended our day by presenting a huge list of other industries in the county: all the plants in Oak Ridge, 3M, Carlstar Group, Remotec, Shawmut, Techmer PM, and that’s just a few.

It’s pretty remarkable that a county our size is so dominant in industry.

We’ve got two months left of the program, plus a trip to Nashville.

Being a part of Leadership Anderson County has been one of the most interesting things I’ve done professionally and I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned.

The chamber puts a whole lot of time and energy into making this program as educational as possible.

It’s clear that the county has a lot to offer businesses and industry that want to relocate here, but also to people who simply live here.