OPINION: Federal Government stifles growth in Jackson County

OPINION: Federal Government stifles growth in Jackson County

By Dylan Smith, Managing Editor • dylan@southerntorch.com

The Mountain Lakes region of our beautiful state has so much to offer. It is home to God-fearing, hard-working people, and natural, scenic landscapes. Our home, Jackson County, is on the brink of unprecedented economic growth. 

The regional positioning of the county uniquely places it to be a robust and prosperous business hub ripe with industry and tourism. It is also by way of our location that TVA, one of the region’s most powerful corporate agencies of the federal government, holds significant influence over the economic affairs of Jackson County.

TVA manages nearly 293,000 acres of federally owned land across the Tennessee Valley. A large portion of this is undeveloped land. If this land was privately held, the land could potentially serve as attractive real estate to the industry. To preserve the natural beauty, parks and recreational sites could be established that could potentially grow tourism and generate tax revenue.

Instead of being utilized, this property is sitting vacant under the ownership of the federal government. This land should be transferred to local governments, or at the very least, to the state of Alabama. If the Jackson County Economic Development Authority had the ability to market portions of the vacant acreage, surely a prospective industry would find it as a suitable location. 

While mass land ownership by the federal government isn’t unique to Jackson County and the region, it does raise questions as to why land assets couldn’t simply be transferred to local stakeholders. The question is definitely worth asking. 

Imagine the industries that would benefit from freeing up the real estate. Jackson County is facing a substantial housing issue. The county currently has a shortage of housing units available to rent or own, which adversely affects economic growth. Freeing up this property could potentially pave the way for new housing developments.

Forestry and agriculture are two of the largest industries in Jackson County. Timber and fertile ground await the entrepreneur, should TVA allow. The potential economic activity that could occur by granting the private sector access to this land would be tremendous. 

Why would the federal government transfer the land to local stakeholders? After all, what’s in it for them? No good deed, no pun intended, by the government comes without its fair share of undue burdens. Do they have a motive to? No, but that’s not the point. 

State and local leaders will have to force the issue. Almighty government, in its infinite wisdom and virtue, will never act simply because it’s right or something makes sense. Therefore, we have to remind them what their sole purpose of existence is. 

Congressman Mo Brooks and Commission Chairman Tim Guffey are currently spearheading this issue. They should be commended for their efforts to place the land in productive hands.

The land is hardly the only idle asset in Jackson County that’s under the ownership of the federal government. Developer Richard Haney attempted to purchase Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from TVA but the agency has blocked Haney’s attempted acquisition of the dormant twin nuclear reactors. 

The matter is currently an ongoing legal suit that is expected to be resolved in the near future. Haney’s proposed project is expected to generate billions in economic impact and create thousands of high paying jobs, which will, in turn, generate much needed additional tax revenue for the county. This is yet again another example of the federal government standing in the way of economic growth in Jackson County.

Who knows what will eventually become of the sacred assets owned and operated by the federal government across the Tennessee Valley? We can all agree that state, local or private ownership of assets is much more productive and efficient than when run by the genius of federal bureaucrats.