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