Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

January 23, 2014

Austin Scott brings pragmatic perspective

-- — It was refreshing Thursday to meet with a congressman so well grounded in his district, but Rep. Austin Scott seems to have an excellent grasp of issues and concerns affecting south Georgia.

A pragmatic businessman, Scott said that the backbone of any healthy economy is agriculture and manufacturing. Someone has to make something in order to stimulate growth.

And his comments regarding the lack of job growth in our region as his primary concern validates what The Times has been addressing this week in editorials — the lack of new job creation in recent years. Since The Times' Sunday editorial, the overwhelming response from the community has ranged from “It’s about time someone said it,” to “Please don’t stop talking about it.” The only negative feedback has been from those responsible for job creation and elected officials.

The two issues that Scott cited are inter-connected. When America moved away from encouraging manufacturing and agriculture in recent years to a concentration on the service and high-tech sectors, the number of jobs has fallen drastically and the economy has suffered. A story in the New York Times back in 2011 addressed this new economic fad as shortshighted and detrimental to the country.

The NYT article interviewed the president of MIT, who assembled a commission at the prestigious university to study the state of American manufacturing and its affect on the economy. The study found that 17 to 20 million new jobs would have to be created in the next decade just to recover from the recent downturn and meet growing needs.

The article points out that information companies create shareholder wealth but few jobs. Facebook and Google have fewer employees combined, worldwide, than the working population of Valdosta, while a manufacturer like General Motors has several hundred thousand employees. In 2011, MIT and others began working on ways to reinvent manufacturing in the U.S.

The Times has addressed the lack of local support for the agriculture and manufacturing sectors several times in recent years, and been harshly criticized for outdated thinking. Given the state of the local economy today, given the lack of new job growth, given the lack of new manufacturers and industry locating in Valdosta, it would appear that this lack of support has damaged our community and jeopardized its future.

The New York Times, the president of MIT, and a well-respected Congressman, among many, support the newspaper’s message. The concerns are valid. The local economy is suffering due to the lack of jobs and those who are responsible should be held accountable.

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