Henry County has a population of just over 32,000, an unemployment rate of 9.13% and plenty of room to grow, according to the Henry County Alliance. He says Henry County sits on one of the world's largest - and purest - ball clay deposits, largely untapped. From a retail standpoint, several establishments have opened up including CVS Pharmacies and Steak & Shake. A Hardees is currently under construction and a national chain restaurant may be arriving in the next couple of years as new strip centers are completed. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with David Hamilton, CEO of Henry County Alliance, for a general economic outlook for Paris and Henry County initiatives.
Retail is a big area of focus for Henry County. Hamilton says they've been fortunate to bring in several establishments: CVS, Steak & Shake, Hardees, Radio Shack. A local brewery is scheduled to open next month - Perrylodgic Brewing Company (hear our interview with one of the owners). From a retail standpoint, Hamilton says the goal is to identify businesses where there is consumer leakage and figuring out ways to prevent consumers leaving the county by offering the goods they're looking for locally.
Their major focus now is finding a national chain restaurant like Applebees or O'Charley's to come in and make a sit-down dining restaurant. Hamilton says they look at the demographics when recruiting a national chain restaurant and the challenge is - where on a local he feels a city like Paris would be able to support an Applebees, getting buy-in from a franchise owner or corporation can be difficult. A franchise owner has bought land in Henry County but with the sit down market not growing, he's put the project on hold. Hamilton hopes, however, that a restaurant will open by the end of 2016.
Another challenge is that Paris doesn't have a lot of vacant spaces, which is a good sign one hand, but on the other it prevents big box stores from coming in to use the empty space. They hope remedy this with some new strip centers coming online soon - a 24,000 square foot retail center on Volunteer Drive and a 5,000 square foot space next to Walmart.
From an industrial development standpoint, Henry County is sitting on one of the largest ball clay deposits in the world. Targeting industries that use clay in their process - ceramic tile companies, companies that make commodes and sinks, etc. is underway. Ball clay is essentially one of the key ingredients in making ceramics, from tiles to electric condensers, to flower pots. A Daltile facility in Dixon, Tennessee, will soon be getting its clay out of Henry County mines. Hamilton says a 50,000 square foot spec building is ready for a large company to come in to make use of the clay deposit, which is among the purest in the world. Europe is the only other place with ball clay deposits like the ones found in Henry County, he says.
On a tourism note, Hamilton says the fishing tournaments coming this summer should have a large economic impact for the community. Paris Landing will host one of its largest events ever - Bassmaster BASSfest will be there in early June. It's expected to bring in 25,000 - 35,000 visitors, which should benefit not only Henry County, but surrounding counties as well.