In Perspective- Brown County's low unemployment

Published 02/20 2014 09:58AM

Updated 02/20 2014 10:20AM

ILLINOIS- Brown County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, and it has a big business to thank for its good statistics. 

In small towns, family ties run deep.
Jim Tracy is the Senior Vice President at DOT Foods in Mt. Sterling, IL. 
"My father started it back in 1960, and I have seven other brothers and sisters working in the business right now, so I've been employed since 1980 full-time," Tracy says. 

Tracy grew up in Mt. Sterling, so many of the people he works with at his family's food re-distribution company he's known for years.
He also knows them because likely, one of their family members either has or does work at DOT. 
"We think there's an advantage because we know the individual, we know their background, we know their character so we think that helps us, so we think that's a great thing," Tracy says. 

Kevin Buss started working at DOT more than 26 years ago. 
His dad worked there, and when he started so did his brothers. 
Now, even more of his family is at DOT.
"Let me see if I can remember all of these, I've got a sister-in-law that's been here a lot of years in sales, I have three daughters that work here actually.
I have a daughter that works in the warehouse, a daughter that works in purchasing, a daughter that works in transportation admin," Kevin says. 

Kevin's sister-in-law Leigh Ann also has a daughter-in-law, Kayla Buss, who works at DOT.
"Whenever I first got this job right out of college, I was just dating my husband, we were nothing more than just dating and everyone was like are you sure you want to work with your mother in law? Are you sure with your future mother-in-law, and I was like yeah, I think it'll be fine, and of course it has, it just really, really, works," she says. 

DOT Foods is the largest employer in Brown County, which has a population of about 5,000.

"We employ full-time, I think it's up to 1,800, I haven't gotten the end-of-the-year numbers but, pretty close to 1,800 full time, plus another 200-300 part time," Tracy says. 

That's a lot of jobs in this area, and even more are on the way.
The company is expanding which means soon, even more people will have the opportunity to become part of the DOT family.

"We're currently adding 120,000 sq feet to our refrigerated warehouse here in town," says Tracy.

With that comes almost a dozen new jobs and more plans to expand are in the works. 

It's all part of the plan, not just for DOT Foods, but for Brown County. 
"We're very blessed with having as many larger employers as we do in our tiny county, but when you throw in the supporting services...the restaurants, the shops, all of that, it becomes bigger and bigger," says David Ferrill, Brown County's board chairman and 31-year DOT employee.

In addition to DOT, there's also a jail in Brown County.
Ferrill says the jobs here mean people do more than work in Brown County, they eat, shop, and spend there as well.

Ferrill says the businesses stay in Brown County because the people who surround it have good work ethic. 

The people stick around because the businesses do.
Ferrill says that if DOT were to ever leave Mt. Sterling it'd turn into a ghost town.
He says Brown County gives DOT tax breaks and works with the company to keep them around.
DOT says even though the company constantly gets offers from other towns and states to move, they don't have any plans to leave. 

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