Swain County

SWAIN COUNTY

Swain County was formed from parts of Jackson County and Macon County in Western North Carolina in 1871. The county boasts large sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Qualla Boundary, the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It is also home to the Nantahala River, one of the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the nation These attractions bring thousands of people to the area year-round and have established tourism as the main source of revenue in the county.

When Swain County was formed, most of the inhabitants were Cherokee Indians and Scotch-Irish and German European settlers. It was a mix that created a distinctive cultural identity for the area. While the county has historically relied on the furniture and tourism industries, it recognizes that it must embrace infrastructure improvements and workforce development to accommodate changes to both its historic and new industries. 

Hometown Strong visited Swain County in October 2018, only two months after Governor Roy Cooper toured the area when heavy rains led to landslides in several western counties. These storms only added to the challenges the county faces with infrastructure for basic utilities for water and sewer service. The governor has also addressed the need for broadband in Swain and other western North Carolina Counties. “Broadband access is a must for economic success in our rural communities,” said Governor Cooper. “We have already seen how access to high-speed internet has allowed business in rural areas to thrive. We cannot deprive rural North Carolinians of this vital tool for competition in a global marketplace.” Governor Cooper’s Common Ground Solutions budget included $20 million to improve internet access and service to homes and businesses in areas of North Carolina that are considered underserved.

Residents of Swain County have also identified other challenges such as workforce development and retention, health care access – including the growing opioid use in the area, and transportation and road improvement.