Leadership takes part in Industry and Economic Development Day

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

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

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 last week’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 the president of the Anderson County Economic Development Association, Tim Thompson, speak about the county’s growth, because 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 Norris Freeway. It was impressive. It builds about six modular every day from start to finish. But what was most impressive was the company culture. After experiencing a high turnover rate, the company decided to try to curb that. It places 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.

The company plans 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 more than 32,000 homes in Anderson County alone. The

plant 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 who can pass a drug test is hard, according to some of the managers.

Anderson County Chamber of Commerce President Rick Mere-

dith ended our day by presenting a list of other industries in the county, such as the plants in Oak Ridge, 3M, Carlstar Group, Remotec, Shawmut, Techmer PM, and more.

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.

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