Friday, March 18, 2011

It's no secret: Rural Georgia is Dying!

From the swamps of the Okefenokee to the Onion fields of Vidalia to the Appalachian Mountains of Blue Ridge to the peanut fields of Southwest Georgia , the rural areas of Georgia has been losing people for decades, a slow demographic collapse. Without even the level of farmers and merchants that used to give these areas their pulse, many counties are also losing their very reason to exist, falling behind the rest of the state in nearly every category as they desperately try to reinvent themselves.

Two forces common to rural Georgia have transformed Superior. One is the collapse of the family farm and the subsequent rise of agribusiness. 60-70 years ago, more than 50 percent of Georgia workers earned their income from a farm. The big farms are getting richer, fattened by federal subsidies, and the small farms are disappearing.

And now a broad swath of the state's central & southern section seems to have lost something else, as well: its optimism. There's a quiet crisis in confidence, the one thing that had seemed a part of rural Georgia DNA. More than ever, people feel powerless to control their lives and pessimistic about the future, especially with many of our seats in the State Legislature about to be relocated in or around the metro Atlanta Area.

The middle class is dwindling, leaving pockets of hard poverty amid large agribusinesses supported by taxpayers. Some counties & towns here in rural Georgia taxed themselves to create an economic development fund. They put in a fiber-optic network for telecommunications. They shored up their high school. They zoned 30 acres at the edge of town for industrial use, graded it and put in utilities. At the center of the proposed industrial park sits the empty shell of a brand new building, built with the help of $145,000 in state money.

Industry could come here to the more isolated regions of rural Georgia and produce their products pretty cheap. And with all the things going on with agriculture, we think we're pretty well positioned.''

The stores that do survive sell basics: gas, quick-pickup groceries, coffee. Or they find a niche, selling local crafts.

With the current trends showing no sign of reversing, we will eventually be left with a lot of places without schools, stores or even government. 'We will depopulate much of the rural Areas of the state and it won't stop there. One of the biggest complaints of Rural Georgia that it is boring. That's true! There isn't that much to do in these areas unless you have transportation & drive to nearby Macon, Columbus, Albany, Savannah.

With the dying of rural Georgia, the days of rural Georgia being the power center of state politics is long gone.


Question Man said...

Why didn't you add one more sentence and ask what can be done to reverse the decline? Aren't there differences among cities/counties in rural Georgia? And obviously, aren't some faring better than others? What are the reasons for success and how can they be applied in other areas? For example, if you compare Washington/Wilkes (reasonably positive) with Sparta/Hancock (negative), aren't the differences striking? Why is that?

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