(WBIR - Scott County) An East Tennessee county that's struggled with unemployment is finding new ways to create jobs. But an unexpected deadline could complicate things.
Earlier this week, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Department of Revenue announced it would start accepting applications for communities who would like to become certified as adventure tourism districts.
The Tennessee Adventure Tourism and Rural Development Act of 2011 was created to promote job growth in rural areas.
According to a TNECD press release, "The act allows certain tourism-related businesses within adventure tourism districts to qualify for a jobs tax credit."
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals has been following the progress of the bill.
He said State Sen. Ken Yager (R-Harriman) sponsored the bill years ago with Scott County in mind. The county has the highest unemployment rate in Tennessee.
"We're at 15.6% right now. Even if we could create 24 jobs, that's 0.3% off the unemployment rate. Everything helps," Mayor Tibbals said.
There is potential to create new jobs, especially if it involves Big South Fork National Park. Adventure tourism could mean anything from zip lining and motorized trail riding, to restaurants and lodging.
But Mayor Tibbals said certain requirements will make it hard for small businesses to qualify. In Scott County, considered Tier 3 in the act, a business would have to create at least 13 jobs and have $500,000 in capital expenses.
"It was a shock to me when I saw the half-million dollar requirement. I don't think there will be that many people able to qualify for those tax credits," Mayor Tibbals said.
But if a business does meets those requirements, a credit of $4,500 per qualified job would be allowed.
Mayor Tibbals is also concerned with the time limit. Communities that would like to apply for certification have until April 15th to do so.
"Why try to rush things when the state, they took their time about getting the paperwork ready for us to do this and now they've given us... 8 weeks to get the job done," he said.
According to Mayor Tibbals, the county has a lot of work ahead of them.
The entire county does not have to be considered for the certification. A committee will decide what areas qualify as adventure tourism districts.