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In the coming years, Haywood County will have a slow or no population growth, the home sales/building business will stabilize at its current level, which is much lower than it was a decade ago, and the population will continue to age.

Tom Tveidt, a research economist for SYNEVA Economics LLC, who has lived in Haywood for 15 years, but is hired by communities and businesses across the nation, prepared an economic outlook summary for Old Town Bank and presented the research at a community forum last week. “Groups pay me to come in not to be funny or interesting,” he said. “They pay me to help them figure out what is going on in their community and that’s it. But hopefully this will be informative and will impart some understanding. It is up to you to figure out what to do with the knowledge.”

Using mostly data available through the U.S. census, Tveidt showed slide after slide that illustrated a sharp contrast between the county’s pre- and post-recession economy, one where the differences that became apparent in 2007 and showed up markedly in 2008.

The 2010 census data showed an additional 4,800 people lived in Haywood County compared to the 2000 census, putting the growth rate at 8.9 percent and at a rank of 55th in the state. A look available county data available since the census shows that for the first time since 1990, the Haywood County population decreased, albeit by only .4 percent.

“This is the first decline, but if you go one step deeper and look at the sources of population growth, we are shrinking and growing older,” he said, noting fewer people are being born than are dying, and fewer people are moving to the area.

Regarding employment, Haywood County has historically been strong in three areas, manufacturing, retail and leisure hospitality. “Every community does something well,” he said. “Industries that do well cluster together because there’s infrastructure and a support system. This is the first thing companies coming to an area look at. They want to know there’s a network of trained people with the skill sets they need. Your skill sets are retail, manufacturing and leisure so you are sort of stuck with that.”

The latest employment figures show Haywood County has an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, a full percentage point lower than the statewide average. Still that is 2,500 people officially unemployed in the county, but the number doesn’t include those who might have given up looking for work.

“What concerns me most is the new pattern,” Tveidt said, noting the rate sharply rose more than two years ago and has stayed there. “This recession really knocked the wind out of us and we haven’t returned to anything close to what we were before. We’re settling into this 6 percent drop in employment — that’s 1,600 jobs that disappeared during the recession.”

The industries in the county that were most impacted by the recession, he said, were construction, where 486 jobs were lost, manufacturing, which lost 291 jobs and wholesale trade, with a 160-job loss. Of the lost jobs, 72 percent were held by males. “There are probably a lot of younger males still here that might be unemployed, especially if they were in construction,” Tveidt said. “That industry is not going to be coming back anytime soon.”

Tveidt’s research showed that even during the recession, there were pockets of growth in the county. For instance, an additional 125 were employed by restaurants, retail stores added 86 employees, and another 74 workers got jobs in electronics and appliance stories. Ambulatory health care services grew by 61 jobs during the recession and another 39 jobs were created in nursing and residential care facilities since the recession ended.

If there are emerging trends, the figures showing where growth occurred in the past three years are good indicators, he said. When people read or hear about economic indicators, it is often in terms of the price of gold, interest rates, what’s happening in China, or government actions aimed at stimulating the economy, Tveidt said. The better indicator is data showing what is happening community by community.

“You are much more tied to this economy than fed reserve bank interest rates,” he said. “Most of you here have benefited from understanding what is going on here. My job is to help you understand a little bit of this data. It is up to you to make it into dollars, incorporate it into your business and your life.”

Charles Umberger, Old Town Bank president and CEO, said the institution’s board of directors is committed to maintaining a locally owned, locally operated, local decision-making community bank. He offered to e-mail Tveidt’s full presentation with any in the community who believed it could be helpful in their business or in making future decisions.

Information requests can be sent to www.oldtownbanking.com or requested by calling 456-3006.

By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 16, 2011

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