Wilson's '09 median income was 2nd highest in state

“Because of our location, people are seeing that it’s a great place to live,” said Sue Vanatta, president of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Wilson also had the second-lowest poverty rate among the 20 counties in Tennessee with 7.8 percent of people living below the poverty level. For comparison, the median household income for the state of Tennessee last year was $41,725 and 17.1 percent of Tennessee’s population lived below the poverty level.

“I think it’s a reflection on a diverse economy and quality of life in Wilson County,” said Mark Hinesley, president of the Mt. Juliet/West Wilson Chamber of Commerce.

Coupled with the low poverty rate is Wilson County’s low unemployment rate, which has been steadily among the top 10 in terms of lowest in Tennessee. In November, Wilson had the eighth lowest rate of 8.1 percent.

“Our city and county leaders have done a great job recruiting businesses to Wilson County,” Vanatta said. “We have a low tax rate and people are working.”

Four of Wilson County’s neighbors received data from the ACS’s one-year estimates including Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson counties. Williamson County held onto the highest spot for median household income and the lowest poverty rate among the counties contained within the survey.

Williamson had a median household income of $85,403 and only 4.8 percent of people in the county lived below the poverty level in 2009. Wilson and Williamson Counties were the only two posting median household incomes above $55,000 and the only two with poverty rates below 10 percent in 2009.

Vanatta compared Williamson County’s location to that of Wilson, citing its proximity to Nashville and its location within the state as a reason for its success and attributed the income figures to their locations.

“Proximity to Nashville can’t be overlooked. I think we owe some of that success to what Nashville has to offer,” Hinesley said.

Davidson County was seventh in terms of median household income with $46,343 and 10th in terms of poverty with 16.9 percent living below the poverty level.

Sumner County had the third highest median household income with $54,090 as well as the third lowest poverty rate with 10.7 percent of its population living below the poverty level.

Rutherford County posted the fourth highest household income with $53,859 and the fifth lowest poverty rate with 12.9 percent living below the poverty level. Data also showed that people living within Wilson County had the second highest housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage. Homeowners paid a median of $1,410 in Wilson County toward their mortgage each month in 2009.

“We have such a diverse choice of housing, as you move closer to Nashville the values are going to go up,” Vanatta said, referring to mortgage rates.

According to the survey’s 20 counties, Williamson County homeowners had the highest median cost for their mortgages in 2009, paying $1,897 each month. The median monthly cost in Tennessee is $1,154. Sumner County was fourth-highest with monthly costs of $1,319 and Davidson was fifth with $1,319 and Rutherford County was sixth highest with $1,247.

Renters in Wilson County also had to pay the second highest monthly rates, according to the survey, with a median cost of housing for renters being $817 in 2009. Williamson County had the highest with $1,031 spent on rent each month.

Hinesley said you could spin these numbers in so many ways it was hard to speculate why mortgage and rental rates were so high in Wilson. He said it’s possible that people in Wilson have more to spend on their housing considering the median household income.

He also said it’s possible that mortgage and rental rates are too high and forcing families to spend more of that income on housing than they may be able to afford. In Wilson County, 57.7 percent of renters spent 30 percent or more of their income on rent in 2009. Also, 28.9 percent of homeowners spent 30 percent or more of their income on their mortgage.

Rutherford had the third highest rent with occupants spending $814 a month on rent in 2009 and Davidson was fourth with $783 a month. Sumner County had the sixth highest with $753 spent on rent each month last year. The median monthly cost of rent for the state in 2009 was $682.

“There are people who have worked so hard to make Wilson County a 20-year overnight success,” Hinesley said. “It’s a compliment to everyone who lives in Wilson County.”

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.