The capacity of any community to sustain itself is largely dependent upon its economic assets. Such assets must be evaluated, understood and cultivated in order for Highland County to flourish economically. It may be a challenge for Highland to capitalize on economic opportunities without sacrificing the rural character and beauty for which it is so well known.

Economic Indicators
Major indicators widely used in establishing an economic snapshot of a community include trends in demographics, the labor force, unemployment, underemployment and income.

The population in the county is about 2273 residents. Of these, over 1,136 participate in the civilian labor force. Unemployment was 10.5% in March 2009, with median family income in 2008 of $38,088.

Major Economic Sectors

Government workers, primarily comprised of school system employees, hold 27.6% of the jobs in Highland. Many of these jobs offer benefits which provide strong foundations for working families. Growth may come from attracting additional state or federal jobs to this area.

Services to individuals, businesses, government establishments and other organizations provide 23.2% of the jobs in Highland. Many self-employed residents work in this sector. Opportunities for growth include adapting to changing demographics, capitalizing on increased tourism and getting ahead of economic trends.

Wholesale and Retail Trade
This category consists mostly of retail trade and accounts 9% of the jobs in Highland. There are specialty businesses that cater to the tourism trade and other businesses that are sufficient to meet the basic everyday needs of the residents. However, due to Highlandís low population, large retail outlets do not locate here so many residents travel an hour or more to shop in larger localities. Growth may come from expanding tourism and finding ways to offer more products locally.

Construction provides 10.1% of the jobs in Highland. An expanding local economy and changing demographics may hold the key to increased opportunities in this area.

Manufacturing provides 5.3% of the jobs in the county. Most of these businesses involve lumber and wood products. Growth may come from additional processing of these products.

Agriculture and Forestry
Agriculture and forestry provide 6.6% of the jobs in Highland but have been instrumental in developing the natural character of the county. Many residents have expressed an interest in maintaining this rural, agricultural character. The number of farms, acreage farmed and farm incomes have remained relatively constant while the value of agricultural and forest lands has increased dramatically; thereby increasing the tax burden on the agricultural sector.The lack of diversity in Highland Countyís economy makes it difficult to find other sources of revenue in lieu of real property taxes.

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
This sector provides over 8.3% of the jobs in Highland and they are statistically the highest paying in the county. The real estate market has been strong as buyers from the more metropolitan areas seek to own property in a different environment. The county has two locally owned banks that serve the needs of both individuals and businesses. Both banks have expanded in recent years while providing solid employment opportunities.

Looking Ahead
Up to the Challenge
Highlandís small population and unique characteristics pose their own set of challenges to increased economic activity. The economies of scale frequently do not allow for traditional solutions so private citizens and county leaders will continue to look for innovative ways to ensure a viable economy for all Highlanders while preserving the scenic and rural character of Highland.

Economic Development Authority
The county has recently revitalized its Economic Development Authority. The group hopes to foster a proactive approach to economic development. It works closely with existing businesses while also identifying and attracting new businesses that are a good fit for Highlandís unique characteristics.

As a county rich in its own legacy and natural beauty, Highland has acknowledged local and regional tourism as an important economic opportunity. The Chamber of Commerce and The Highland Center work hard to expand and promote tourism as well as other areas of economic development.

As more jobs become dependent on technology, opportunities are created for workers that live outside of large metropolitan areas. Highland has a high quality of life that could attract such workers if the infrastructure, particularly broadband, becomes available. The county should explore ways to take advantage of this trend.

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