The future is looking brighter for Lowndes County, although a full economic recovery has not yet occurred, shared Dr. Cynthia Tori of the Valdosta State University Center for Business and Economic Research.
Tori was one of several speakers Thursday at the 2012 Economic Summit, presented by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce at the Rainwater Conference Center.
Five presentations were made during the day, each taking a look at different segments of the community, with a focus on demographics and industry sectors. Following the presentations, the large assembly of community members, elected officials, and educators began a brainstorming session to discuss ideas for improving the community. Among the ideas were better access to early childhood education, more emphasis on job creation, more technical and vocational training in the high schools, public transportation, protect Moody Air Force Base, and encourage the community to get involved and provide input.
Following is a synopsis of each presentation:
Lowndes ranking among peer communities
Tori presented a by-the-numbers presentation showing how Lowndes County compares to other communities of similar size and with similar characteristics. Fourteen communities in the southeastern U.S. were used as comparisons in economic indicators. The statistics show that Lowndes’ poverty rate, at 25 percent, is higher than both the U.S., at 15 percent, and the peer communities, at 20 percent. On the plus side, the population is increasing, and Lowndes rankings have remained the same among the peer groups for the last two years.
For job indicators, Tori said the unemployment rate is still high, at 9 percent, although it’s not as high as it was a year ago, when it was 10 percent. She stated that there are 35,216 jobs in Lowndes County, with 19 percent of those in the government sector, and knowledge-based jobs at 21 percent. The median income for peer communities went up, but not in Lowndes, where the average weekly wage is $561 and, for knowledge-based jobs, it’s $735. However, she said that Lowndes was the only county in the group that had an average weekly wage decline in knowledge-based jobs.