January 15, 2014

Hope is on the horizon for the area

The Daily Citizen

— For Whitfield County, economic recovery may finally be here.

On Wednesday, IVC US officials confirmed plans to build an $80 million luxury vinyl plank and tile plant in Dalton at the site of the company’s existing vinyl plant. Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said the plant is expected to create 150 to 225 jobs over three years. Construction of the plant is expected to start this spring, and the plant is forecast to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2015.

This marks the latest in a string of announced expansions by major players in the floorcovering industry. All told, these projects promise to create around 2,600 jobs in Whitfield County over the next five years and hundreds more in neighboring counties.

In November, the latest month for which data are available, the unemployment rate in the Dalton metro area, Whitfield and Murray counties, dropped to 9.4 percent. That’s the lowest rate since October 2008.

Now, that unemployment rate is still way too high. And many of the thousands of Whitfield County residents who lost their jobs during the Great Recession still haven’t come back into the workforce, and many who do still have jobs are making no more, and sometimes much less, than they were five years ago.

For many, the good times aren’t back yet. But perhaps we can now see them in the distance. And it seems that the worst is over for Whitfield County.