VALDOSTA – Compared to 14 peer communities, Valdosta-Lowndes County fell below average.
Dr. Cynthia Tori, Ph.D., Valdosta State University College of Business professor of economics, presented “Lowndes County by the Numbers: How do we compare with peer and aspirant communities?” at the Economic Summit 2019 and Community Council Meeting at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center.
Tori said the purpose of the report is to “use benchmarks to assess economic performance against peer and aspirant communities and to provide an objective foundation for developing strategic planning and growth strategies.”
The benchmarks are divided into people indicators and job indicators with the desired outcome of economic growth and economic prosperity. The main indicators were broken down into smaller categories which were also ranked.
Here is a summary of the people indicators and job indicators with each category and ranking broken down.
— The people indicators were broken down into educational attainment, population growth, poverty rate and old age dependency. Tori's report states the people indicators reflect the demographic foundations of the communities and measure how well prepared the people in the community are for work.
— Lowndes saw a 6 percent population growth, leading to a sixth-place ranking which is the same as last year in this category.
— Lowndes' rank remained at 11th for percentage of the population with a high school diploma or higher at 84.4 percent. Tori noted that while this rank is unchanged from last year, the rank actually improved this year.
— The amount of population with a bachelor's degree or more rose from eighth to seventh with 25.2 percent this year.
— Lowndes dropped from 12th to 14th in poverty rate with a 25.3 percent.
— The people indicator rank for the Lowndes County community declined for the first time since the 2011 report, according to Tori. Lowndes ranked seventh overall on people indicators.
— The job indicators were broken into private jobs, knowledge jobs, unemployment rate, median income and average weekly wage. The job indicators reflect the workforce foundations of the communities.
— Last year, Lowndes' median household income was $41,331, which gave the county the 12th place ranking. The ranking remained the same this year but the median household income rose to $42,019. Lowndes' rank rose for average weekly wage which is now $691, placing the county 13th in the rankings.
— While the ranking also remained at 12th, the same as 2018, for share of knowledge-based jobs, the percentage rose slightly from 20.7 percent to 20.9 percent. Same for the knowledge sector average weekly wage where the rank remained at 14th but rose from $797 to $829.
— Lowndes' unemployment rate went from 4.7 percent to 4.1 percent from 2018 to 2019, placing the county ninth in the rankings.
—Job indicator rank, which places Lowndes County 15th out of 15 counties, remains unchanged since the 2014 report.
In the overall rankings, Valdosta-Lowndes County ranked 13th out of the 15 counties, which is down from the 2018 11th place ranking.
“Our peer counties have been expanding at a rapid rate,” Tori said. “We have great opportunities ahead of us. We have access to other types of national and state institutions. The outlook is positive for the future and we need to make sure we take into account all the opportunities available.”
Future entrepreneurship is bright in Lowndes County with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, She Creates Business Conference, SEEDS Business Resource Center and Valdosta Area Business Incubator.
Three companies that used SEEDS to start their own productive local businesses and graduated from VSU discussed how Valdosta helped them get their start. The businesses were Georgia Beer Company, Azalea Health and 2Shoes.
All agreed if not for the help of the resources provided by the university and local government, they would not have had the advantages they did when starting out.
Desiree Carver is a reporter at the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be reached at (229) 244-3400 ext. 1215.