Recently I was asked by someone, “What do you see Haywood County’s future looking like in ten years?” “Is this just going to be a county full of retirees and no young people? ” “What can be done to keep our children who grow up here from moving away and living elsewhere because they we don’t have jobs that pay well enough to support a living?”
I could tell by his tone of his questioning that there was a degree of pessimism there. I prefer to look at things with more optimism, but in doing so I take a look at realities.
Keep in mind that Haywood County has long been a magnet for people who retire here, and much of the reason has to do with the fact that it is such a beautiful place to live! Whether the retiree has worked in this county their entire life, or has pulled up stakes from elsewhere, who can blame them for wanting to live here? Retirees have been coming to here to settle down for years; when they pass on they will be replaced by more retirees. Those are facts.
Retirees are a very big part of Haywood County’s economic picture; not only do they spend money to support local businesses, retirees also contribute to a great demand for services. Speak to any such person, and chances are they will tell you that their house project or repair needed will have to be put on a schedule for a sometimes much later date. Why? Because currently there is a great lack of skilled tradesmen to take on those projects- their schedules are full!
This leads to my answer to the person asking those questions about Haywood County’s future. I told him that one thing that county officials can do is focus more on vocational education programs at Haywood Community College, as well as other regional programs. The skills learned in these types of professions are tailor-made for Haywood County’s economy; the demand for services can be met, and skilled tradespeople can make a very good living at the same time.
The additional beauty of such programs is that through the obtaining of relevant job skills and subsequent certification, the person who finishes such programs can generally have no problem finding work with a company- they may even be in a situation where they can test the entrepreneurial waters by striking out on their own. They can take the knowledge and skills that they have anywhere in the world- and many in fact may decide to stay right here in Haywood County.
How many people do you know that have invested longer periods of time in their education for professional degrees, only to find out that their employment prospects are pretty much defined by wherever there happen to be jobs? They are at the mercy of whatever large corporation and governmental entity is hiring, and inevitably that often means that such people have to obtain employment in larger urban areas.
Should young citizens’ prospects for economic success be dependent on whether or not factory jobs by some large corporation are brought to the county? I personally think such a strategy is short-sighted.
As a county commissioner I will take steps to better promote and support vocational programs in the educational institutions of our region.