The Making Of
It all started with a letter. The letter was sent to TNECD from Stacey Kidd, executive director of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, in the spring of 2013. She was sounding the trumpet, declaring Scott County’s ongoing mission to give up the distinction of being the county with the highest unemployment rate in Tennessee—something they had been struggling with for years.
The enthusiasm and passion of this community jumped off the page and prompted us to begin a video project documenting their efforts.
Two years, 1,224 miles and countless interviews later, we had enough material to put together a feature-length documentary. But, since we realize most people don’t want to watch an hour and half long story, we did our best to show Scott County’s journey and successes in a much shorter feature.
During our visits to Scott County, we met some unbelievable people, people who love their community and want to see it succeed. We encountered people working long hours and dedicating their lives to Scott County’s prosperity.
Like Jerry Slaven and his wife Diane. Jerry and Diane moved their business, JDS Technologies, from Columbus, Ohio to Oneida more than ten years ago, because they wanted to be closer to where Jerry grew up and make a difference in a community where jobs were badly needed.
All of JDS’s employees live in Scott County. A business that started with two employees is now at 135—and growing—and they’ve expanded their building yet again. The company produces a diverse array of products, parts for the automotive aftermarket, Whirlpool and the airline and fracking industries.
Jerry, along with his fluffy goldendoodle Bentley, make the rounds every day to greet each and every employee. It’s those connections that Jerry believes have helped the company grow and prosper.
Another example? Takahata. The Japanese automotive manufacturer also makes a major impact in Scott County, with over 200 employees. Takahata began operations in Scott County in 2002 and has experienced steady growth. Scott County and its workforce manufacture parts for some of the biggest automotive manufacturers in the world: Toyota, Honda and Chrysler. So if you drive a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord, for example, it’s powered by the fuel system made in Scott County.
With the help of several ThreeStar grant awards in the last few years, Scott County created a comprehensive county web site—aimed at everyone from site selectors to tourists—and invested in Leadership Scott, an initiative challenging Scott County’s youth to become responsible, educated and drug free.
The Chamber purchased full-page ads in the Oneida Independent Herald, the county’s newspaper, and decided to start telling the positive stories that existed in the community. These stories served as a sort of rallying cry, reminding everyone why Scott County was special.
It didn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen without the extraordinary efforts of a lot of people, but after 15 years, Scott County is no longer the highest unemployment county in Tennessee.
We hope our video showcases the enduring spirit of the people who call our great state home.