As communities around metro-Atlanta are projected to continue growing explosively, others — including Floyd County — aren’t, Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark said.
Examining global trends that will impact Georgia over the course of the next decade, Clark said, for Floyd County the top of those concerns was his prediction for very slow growth.
Georgia will add two million people over the next ten years, Clark told Rotary members, and the city of Atlanta will double in size within the next 25 to 30 years. At the same time, 80 counties in Georgia will lose population.
“When I look at Rome and Floyd County the good news is that you are expected to continue to grow. I will tell you though it’s not the level that you will need to have the economic success you need long term,” Clark said. “I think over the next 30 years you’re expected to only add about 8,000 residents. That really doesn’t balance out with what the growth in the market is going to demand.”
The state chamber chief also said this area needs to be thinking in terms of its ability to attract talent and creativity.
“We are in a global war for talent and those young men and women are going to be the ones to create new jobs,” Clark said. “What are you doing in this community to recruit the next generation of talent and keep them here?”
The income disparity in Rome and Floyd County was a third area that Clark expressed concern with.
“You’ve got almost 19% of the people who live in your community living in poverty,” Clark told Rome Rotary Club members. “I drove into the town by the community food bank ... that parking lot was full. Do you know which demographic in this community has the highest poverty rate? It’s actually females age 24 to 35.”
The second and third largest demographics also involved women, according to Clark.
“What are you doing to lift those folks out of poverty,” Clark asked.
Responding to a question from City Commissioner Craig McDaniel about a Brookings Institute report listing Rome as a “faltering legacy city.”
Clark said a think tank in Virginia, the Economic Innovation Group, had also listed Floyd County as a “distressed” community at the start of the decade — however, since then it has improved to the mildly better rating of “at-risk.” The study rates communities from prosperous to comfortable, mid-tier, at-risk and distressed.
Companies looking to invest in communities look at those same reports and Clark encouraged the community to develop a strategy to move into the decade.
“As long as a company knows that you’ve got a plan in place and you’re working toward it and it’s a long term strategy you can overcome it,” Clark said.
The business community in Georgia, and across the country, may be the best tool for dealing with the political polarization that has crippled the country, he said.
“At the end of the day the business community is the only group out there that can be the moderate middle and bring Republicans and Democrats (together) and say here are some solutions we all agree on,” he told the group.