Gov. Bill Haslam makes small business listening tour stop in Lenoir City

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - Growing jobs and helping small businesses, it's a theme we're hearing from pundits and politicians on the local and national level. On Thursday, Bill Haslam hit the road, listening to business owners and workers in East Tennessee. 

Haslam visited Matlock Tire Co. in Lenoir City to talk jobs and how to improve the business climate for small business owners in the state. Haslam along with some members of his Nashville political team talked with dozens of Loudon County small business owners.

Recently, companies like Amazon and Volkswagen have made big investments in the state, but Haslam says small business still help to create a majority of new jobs.

"The reality is most of them are invested by family-owned small business and so like I said we need to make certain we're in a good climate," said Haslam.

Small business owners talked about their concerns, such as rising employee benefits and compensation costs. Other businesses say they're hiring, but can't find the right workers.

"I can't get enough drivers. I can't get enough people to drive my trucks, not qualified enough," said Jim Purdy, Purdy's Brothers Trucking.

Unemployment figures released today show that East Tennessee's rural counties show high unemployment rates. "The further you get away from the urban centers, the higher unemployment goes.  Scott County is in the high teens and because of that we're trying to find businesses that will work in rural areas," Haslam said. The latest unemployment figures show the unemployment rate has risen from 9.7 to 9.8%

Gov. Haslam also visited with employees of the Whirlpool Corporation in Cleveland Thursday taking part in an event that marked the sixth month anniversary of the spring tornado outbreak.