Regional Project Manager Chuck Scragg of Georgia Power’s Region Community and Economic Development department was on hand at the Adairsville Inn Thursday to discuss the demographics of the area and how Bartow County may be on the cusp of an industrial boom.
“Right now we have about, I would say, 10 industries looking at our region. Now, statewide, out of those new industries that are looking at Georgia, about 32 to 33 percent of them are in fact foreign direct investment,” Scragg said. “In other words, they’re coming from Belgium, or Japan or Pacific Rim nations or wherever. A lot of them are carpet-based or auto supplier-based and we have — personally, I haven’t been this busy since 2006. It’s good news.”
Scragg’s talk focused on four counties within northwest Georgia: Bartow, Floyd, Gordon and Whitfield. He said the four counties put together count for a large portion of Georgia’s industrial output, producing an approximate total of $22.7 billion in exports.
“We are considered a region to be, beyond Atlanta, historically the most heavily manufacturing region in the state of Georgia. We have a history of manufacturing starting with Goodyear and right on through to the new industry like the Shaw announcement,” Scragg said.
Scragg acknowledged the current method to land business investment in any region relies on various incentives, such as Freeport exemptions, job tax credits and opportunity zones. In a few years, he said, that will no longer be the case.
“While the environment right now for the locations is driven by incentives, in four to five years, or maybe even sooner, it’s going to be workforce. ... We have to have the workforce and those young men are going to be our most important asset,” Scragg said, referring to guest students from Adairsville Elementary School. “I cannot stress enough how important education will be, notwithstanding that I used to be a teacher.”
As part of his presentation, Scragg included a number of graphs highlighting the give and take among Bartow, Floyd, Gordon and Whitfield counties that occurs every day when area residents go to work. The information, based on the 2010 census and acquired through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stated 16,700 people from outside Bartow come into the county for their jobs, while 11,500 people who live in the county also work in the county. By contrast, the graphs show 16,800 people who live in the county go elsewhere to work.
Numbers for Floyd, Whitfield and Gordon counties were available as well. More people lived and worked in Floyd than commute in or out, while 30,000 people commute into Whitfield County. In Gordon County, more people leave the county to work rather than commute in.
Based on population numbers, Scragg believed Bartow was nearing a period of high economic growth.
“[An] interesting fact is that over the last eight years Bartow has added 10,000 people. Very, very strong. I like to call us the next county up. In other words, the recession stopped it, but ... once it gets back into gear the wave will be coming,” he said.
During a question-and-answer period after his talk, Bartow County Board of Education member Fred Kittle asked what Bartow was doing right to stimulate economic growth and what needed work. Scragg said there was little that needed improvement, and he praised the various elected officials and development authorities who represent the county.
“You’ve got good professionals that you’ve hired and you have good volunteer leadership. ... And the other thing is you have the ability to close a deal,” he said.
Prior to Scragg’s presentation, Adairsville Downtown Development Authority Chair Susan Gilmore presented the organization’s new tagline, “A breath of fresh air on the square.” She said the DDA was working on its own website, which is slated to feature real estate listings and a restaurant guide among other features. Gilmore said the launch date is set for Nov. 15.
Adairsville Elementary School Media Specialist Allison Watson gave a short presentation on a program urging young boys to read and said the school’s expected supply of Macbooks would be a boon to the program.
The next Eggs and Issues breakfast is scheduled for Dec. 5 at 7 a.m. at the Adairsville Inn.