Added: Dontrell Gard - Date: 12.03.2022 15:42 - Views: 29218 - Clicks: 8997
Jamestown, Tennessee, is one of the poorest towns with a majority - white population in the US. The area overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and locals believe new jobs will now come - but will that be enough to turn around decades of economic distress? Nine years after his plumbing company collapsed at the height of the credit crunch, Clint Barta is feeling confident enough to start again. The plumber had to lay off 75 employees back in and commuted daily for an out-of-town job to keep his family afloat.
Barta lives in Jamestown, a tiny town of 1, people nestled in the fertile hills of north Tennessee. An area "with churches and just one pub", as some locals describe it. It's a two-hour drive from here to the nearest city, and the busy streets and shining high-rises of the state capital Nashville feel like a world away. In Jamestown, the streets that make up the town centre are deserted.
A short walk takes you past row upon row of empty shops with bare shelves, broken blinds, and months' worth of post piling up under the doors. There are dusty shop fronts, a florist with plastic funeral wreaths in the window, a thrift store, a few sun-bleached 'For Sale' s. Between and official statistics show Jamestown had the sixth lowest median household income of any town in the US. And by over half of its population was living below the poverty line. But since Donald Trump won the election in November , there's a new sense of optimism in the air.
Many echo his optimism. Voters in Jamestown and the surrounding Fentress County came out overwhelmingly in favour of the Republican candidate, who won Fifty years ago it was a thriving hub with hundreds employed in local mines and three garment factories.
But then the mines closed and the factories left. Plans to turn Jamestown into a hub for the service industry failed to materialise, and neither did a new interstate highway that would increase commercial traffic. The local industrial park today stands half empty. A giant Walmart did finally provide some new jobs, but also forced many "mom-and-pop" stores out of business. But despite all this, the latest state-level statistics are starting to show some good news - and giving people hope.
And in May the state saw its largest month-to-month unemployment drop in more than 30 years, figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics show. For people here, it's confirmation that their new president is delivering on his campaign promise to generate 25 million jobs and become, in his own words, "the greatest jobs producer that God ever created". In fact, the trend actually started before the change of administration, thanks to relatively low tax rates and the low cost of living in the state. But J. Michael Cross, the county executive of Fentress County, is definitely feeling optimistic.
Although that figure is hard to verify, Tennessee's multi-million pound construction blitz has been well documented. And Mayor Cross - whose patch includes Jamestown - is a firm believer in "trickle-down economics". Hover over the curve to see figures for each month. At the Jamestown food bank, those waiting to receive their free box of provisions know little about state statistics. As they file through this blue, galvanised steel shed they probably have other s on their minds - working out how to make each precious food parcel last.
Demand is so high that families are only allowed to come here once every six weeks. Like most of the 15 volunteers here, she is from one of Jamestown's many local churches. The volunteers walk between pallets and crammed shelves, filling boxes with basic supplies - packets of rice, tinned fruit and vegetables, biscuits and flour. The Methodist church donates washing powder and sometimes there is also soap and toiletries to hand out. The food bank helps out families every week. A rough estimate says that one in every six homes in Fentress, a county of 17, inhabitants, depends in some way on food banks to feed themselves.
But work is non-existent, whenever a position comes up there are 20 people in line waiting to take it". Jones' story is typical. He worked all his life in the construction industry, driving from state to state, picking up short-term contract work.
It was a hard, hand to mouth existence, living out of a suitcase. When his wife and children left him, he decided he couldn't do it anymore. He couldn't afford to keep his car, and in a town where public transport is almost non-existent he has to rely on friends to give him lifts. Kenny says he can make the food bank provisions last 20 days if he eats once a day. But that still leaves another 22 days before he can come back for another box.
He's heard there might be a factory opening up soon and he's hoping to find out what work might be on offer. But he's not holding out much hope. I don't think it exists any more," says the local librarian. It's scorching in the midday sun and the library is the only open door in Jamestown's complex of municipal buildings, organised around a car park. She's wrong. But the office is so small and tucked away that it would be easy to miss.
Sitting at a single desk in a windowless room at the end of corridor, manager Janice Campbell is happy to chat. She points out the computer for doing job searches which is almost always free. On the jobs board, there are just three postings: one for teaching jobs in local schools, another one for a position with a charity for the disabled. The third one is for the role of county Sheriff, after the incumbent stepped down and pleaded guilty to coercing vulnerable female prisoners into sex. With few jobs on offer, Janice gets few visitors.
But recently she's had a flurry of calls from people who, like Kenny Jones, have heard a factory is about to open up. Back in the Fentress County council offices, Mayor Cross is crunching the s. The official stats for the current state of affairs in Jamestown make pretty grim reading. And a shocking People have got used to things being bad, says Mayor Cross. The mayor is adamant things are looking up, with several local businesses taking on staff recently. But there will only be a real turnaround if Fentress County can attract new businesses from outside the area.
And he believes President Trump can help this to happen. Even the churches are in expansion mode, he says, which may give the construction industry an extra boost. On the road into Jamestown alone there are more than 70 churches, with their crosses and billboards lit up with bible quotes. Could be", says Cross, who doesn't know the exact figure but thinks that doesn't sound off. And the new factory that so many people are talking about? That's all I can say, let's hope we can bring good news in a couple of months. Sweating in his dirty work overalls, Timothy Dillard is sawing three-metre wooden planks into skirting boards.
After 22 years in the military and four more as a missionary in Africa, he returned home to Jamestown 18 months ago and set up a construction company. Micah "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy". Dillard has a staff of five - all local young people, one of them recruited just yesterday. And today they're renovating a run-down cottage outside town. Many of his clients are retired people who have moved to Fentress County attracted by low property taxes and cost of living. Many come for the horse riding. With its tracks and hillsides, this is a dream destination for the equestrian community.
And everyone here understands that President Trump's promised new jobs will only come in large s if those small firms are able to expand. But in a place that's been in such a long downward spiral, turning things round is not easy. Why work, when you've got free money? In Jamestown And to many small-scale employers, that seems like a big disincentive for people to get into the workforce. I don't know the answer… but then, I don't make policy.
Its name belies the grim reality of a pockmarked old concrete street lined up with crumbling trailers and wooden shacks, abandoned cars, stray dogs and piles of rubbish that occasionally get set alight, releasing a thick smoke. The doors - those that exist- are mostly left open, windows covered with fabric and cardboard in the place of glass. Some houses have porches made of sheets held together with rubble and old armchairs outside. It's the middle of the working week but everyone here seems to be home - although most prefer to hide away at the sight of strangers.
Dogs bark unwelcomingly. Connor, who's about 40, lives at the bottom of Sunshine Lane, in a little cabin with peeling paint. He has one room which he shares with a woman who hides behind the fabric hanging in the doorway the moment she sees us. He can't walk much: he has a broken back, he says, after an injury he had while working at a local garage, fixing trucks. Well, I'm on disability allowance , I draw my check for some dollars," he replies.
There are so many like me, who get hurt because the job is dangerous and then you are on our own, in pain and with no other jobs to go for. His neighbour opposite, with whom he doesn't really get along, has a similar story. Pauline was diagnosed with lung cancer, had surgery twice and lost everything: her job at a bar and the few savings she had.
Painfully thin, emaciated "with the cancer back" and on sickness benefit, she lives alone in Sunshine Lane. She lost contact with her family but a friend visits from time to time. Pauline has just two broken teeth, a half-smoked cigarette in her right hand and another, not yet lit, in her left.
Her face is pocked with countless red blemishes and has track marks of syringes on her arms. Sunshine Lane is also the place where Jamestown's biggest tragedy is played out in plain sight.Jamestown tn chat lines
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Bibliography of Tennessee Local History Sources > Fentress County