Georgia Leaders Aim To Improve State’s Rural Economy

A customer gets into his car after shopping at a convenience store as the sun rises in Lula, Ga., in Hall County, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. As Donald John Trump prepares to enter the Oval Office, citizens with disparate views from urban and rural areas illuminate widening cultural fissures that help explain Trump’s rise and … Continued

David Goldman / Associated Press

The state’s political and business leaders are responding to what they see as a worsening of the decades-old “two Georgias” syndrome with separate initiatives launching this month.

According to this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Atlanta-based Georgia Chamber of Commerce will open the first regional office in its 102-year history on May 15 in Tifton, a city in the heart of economically distressed South Georgia.

Just one week later, Tifton also will play host to the first meeting of a council the state House of Representatives created this year to look for ways to foster economic growth in Georgia’s rural communities.

The numbers are eye-opening. While metro Atlanta is expected to add about 1.5 million residents by 2030, 74 of Georgia’s 159 counties – primarily in rural areas – are projected to lose population during the same period, according to research conducted on the chamber’s behalf.

The chamber is attacking the sluggish rural economy with a new committee of chamber members that will look for ways to take advantage of rural Georgia’s strengths, including the defense industry’s strong presence, and examine how to tailor state tax incentives to attract business to rural communities.

Meanwhile, House members will hold hearings across the state. The council is due to deliver an interim report to the full legislature by the end of this year and final recommendations by the end of 2018.

Dave Williams covers government for Atlanta Business Chronicle.