Rhea County Commission agrees to buy property for La-Z-Boy use
On Tuesday Rhea County commissioners approved a resolution to purchase property for La-Z-Boy's local trucking needs.
County Executive George Thacker said following the unanimous vote, "This is the first time this commission has done something we can point to and say, 'We brought these jobs here.' We're sending a message that we want jobs and we want La-Z-Boy here. We want expansion here."
Approximately one week ago, La-Z-Boy General Manager Bimbo McCawley said the company-owned England trucking company needed space for its vehicles that serve the local operation. He said then that 40 local jobs already have been created anticipating this action, and another 40 to 50 positions could be created. The trucking jobs would pay $50,000 to $55,000 per year, he said.
Tuesday night, District 5 Commissioner Emmaly Fisher said that while she supports the move, she questions whether Rhea County residents actually will get those jobs. What information she bases such opinion on is not known. On the one hand, Commissioner Fisher says she thinks this purchase is "a good idea, but on the other hand, she somehow thinks people in Rhea County will not even apply for those good jobs."
Fisher said, "I think we need to be realistic about the jobs created,"..."I don't think 80 people in this county are going to apply for a CDL [commercial driver's license] and become long-distance truckers." Where Fisher got this contention appears to be a mystery and in our opinion, a direct insult to Rhea Countians. We noticed that at no time (to our knowledge) did Commissioner Fisher ever say that Rhea Countians would never crawl down a 1,000 foot coal mine for a job. In our opinion, Fisher's comment was at best nonsensical.
The resolution to purchase 3.99 acres across Walnut Grove Road from the La-Z-Boy plant passed without further discussion. It is projected that the purchase will cost approximately $120,000 and La-Z-Boy will in turn lease this property from the county. Projects such as this is a win-win.
Thacker said he had been working with La-Z-Boy officials since last fall when civic and government leaders agreed that economic development efforts should be directed toward taking "care of what we have." Thacker projects that the county could possibly bring in an additional $4 million worth of good jobs. Thacker pointed out that La-Z-Boy already has hired more than 300 people this year, and he and McCawley suggested the company may be considering future expansions.
It is our view that regardless of the counties bad financial condition, this investment into our local economy is an investment that will help meet the needs for job growth and potential expansion for a long time good charitable employer such as La-Z-Boy.
We applaud our county executive for being aggressive on helping one of the counties leading employers and his continued work in bringing much needed jobs to Rhea County.