Regional economic reports: Floyd County still in dire need of housing
While Rome and Floyd County are bringing a lot to the table — accessibility to health care and education, quality of life, available jobs-housing availability remain an issue.
Looking at key economic drivers, Elyse Davis the community development manager for Georgia Power, said this area has “all the drivers that would make people want to live here, but housing.”
The presentation by Davis was one of many topics during a daylong joint session of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, the Development Authority of Floyd County, and the Gordon-Floyd Joint Development Authority on Friday.
The housing drought Floyd County has been in appears to be in the process of changing.
From February 2021 into February 2022, the number of applications has skyrocketed to a level unheard of in the past decade, according to planning department records. During that time frame, there have been applications for 2,057 multi-family units and 1,245 single-family detached homes.
“Every week I hear about a new housing development,” City Manager Sammy Rich told the group.
Housing availability and population growth often go hand in hand and if population and retirement projections hold true, Davis said, Floyd County and much of Northwest Georgia have work to do.
A large number of retirements from the workforce overall is projected to outstrip the population growth.
Looking at population growth, Floyd County has had steady incremental growth. Between 2016 and 2021 the population grew by around 2.6%. The forecast for the next five years is similar — an increase of approximately 2,900 people.
But those projections aren’t set in stone.
“Your population growth is subject to tremendous change if you can fix the housing,” Davis said.
As part of that session, they examined business trends in Floyd County as well as areas that could be considered competitors.
Take nearby counties like Bartow and Gordon for instance. Both have seen a boom in logistics and warehousing facilities near I-75.
“Overnight Bartow found itself with a wealth of privately held warehouse space and distribution facilities, but that’s taking up a lot of their available property,” Davis said. “That’s not leaving as many opportunities for manufacturers.”
So it’s got ups and downs, there’s growth but especially in Bartow the diversity of growth isn’t there.
Weighing in, former Rome city manager and Floyd-Gordon authority board member John Bennett said logistics facilities along interstate corridors are popping up even without any incentives.
“Talk to (former Floyd County Manager) Kevin Poe in Jackson County,” Bennett said. “They have (logistics) companies jumping in and are not giving one cent of incentives.”
Again, there’s good and bad for each. Those facilities bring jobs, but not necessarily at the wage rate a community needs if it’s seeking to grow and retain local talent.
“Floyd County has been very selective about the type of industry it is recruiting,” Davis said.
Looking around at similar communities in the state Tamara Brock the senior project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said urban portions of the state may have higher income levels but don’t have the industry and tax base that’s in Floyd County.
“It’s to be commended,” Brock said.
That alongside five colleges — Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Georgia Highlands College, Berry College, Shorter University and the Medical College of Georgia — equates to a high level of access to education locally.
“For a community our size to have five colleges and universities is a very big deal,” RFCDA President Missy Kendrick said.
Where we live and work
As part of the discussion, Davis not only broke down the population but where they live and work.
Floyd County’s population is at around 99,250 with a workforce of 43,936.
Of those who work or live in Floyd County:
♦ 19,167 are employed in Floyd County but live outside the county
♦ 19,655 are employed in Floyd County and work in Floyd County
♦ 21,157 live in Floyd County but are employed outside the county
“Most of your workforce that lives here goes somewhere else to work,” Davis said.
Of those who live in Floyd County but work elsewhere, a surprising number are going to the metro-Atlanta area with the top two locations being Fulton County and Cobb County. Of those commuting in, a majority come from Polk County, Bartow County, and Chattooga County.
That led the discussion to the idea of regional development partnerships.
Kendrick said she’s scheduled to meet with the Development Authority of Polk County in the next few weeks.
“I want to explore what we have around us,” Kendrick said. “We want to partner with everybody. If there’s a way we can partner with somebody for economic development let’s do it. Development doesn’t stop at county lines.”