During the Aug. 18 UCDD Executive Committee meeting, Mark Farley, Executive Director of UCDD and UCHRA, recognized two Upper Cumberland counties as coming off of the distressed counties list. Fentress and Jackson counties were two of the three distressed counties from the 14-county Upper Cumberland region to appear on the list; falling off within the last fiscal year. Clay County is currently the only UC county listed as distressed but has shown a reduction in poverty rates in recent years.

“When I came on board 10 years ago, we had six distressed counties,” Farley said. “We only have one and Clay County is moving in the right direction.”

Fentress and Jackson counties also received attention from Gov. Bill Lee during the 2021 Governor’s Conference held earlier this month. In 2020, Gov. Lee announced the fewest distressed counties in Tennessee since 2007.

The Appalachian Regional Commission prepares a county economic status index for all counties in the region annually. By analyzing three-year average unemployment rates, per capita market income, and poverty rates, each one of Appalachia’s 420 counties is then classified within one of five economic status designations—distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive, or attainment by ARC. The designations are also used to determine the match requirements for ARC grants, as well as research topics and investment strategies targeting resources to the Region’s most distressed areas.

While Fentress and Jackson counties are no longer classified as distressed, they contain distressed areas within their county borders; Fentress holds two while Jackson contains one.

To view the interactive version of the map, visit arc.gov/classifying-economic-distress-in-appalachian-counties/