Business leaders of Carroll County met on Oct. 29 and discussed the region’s economic condition. Kyle Marrero, president of University of West Georgia, opened with UWG statistics and incorporated the university’s standing with the region’s development. Carroll County is experiencing growth and stability, however, the region still has room to grow.

UWG currently has 12,000 students, with the largest freshmen enrollment class in UWG’s history. UWG has spent over $300 million in renovated facilities and plans to continue growing. “It is important for us to be at the table for economic development,” said Marrero.

UWG is the eighth largest institution with $442 billion per year for the Carroll County region.

“That is the second largest impact per capita of any institution in the state,” said Marrero. “Our 2014-2020 strategic plan is to continue to grow and to work with the community to develop this region.”

Unemployment rates have risen recently, particularly during mid-summer and right after the holidays. Carroll County can be partially to blame with the school cycle of college students going home during summer and holiday seasons. However, the trend has been “down” for about two and a half years. During the recession, the region had 1,932 unemployment claims. The region is back to pre-recession levels with claims at 1,827.

The overall trend in the labor force is rising, while the trend in unemployment is declining. The service industry in the region is in demand.

“You people who are coming into our work force are finding employment,” said Joey Smith, associate professor of economics at UWG. “The region’s overall unemployment rate is about eight percent.”

In Carroll County, service jobs make up about 85 percent goods and production jobs. Smith associated this with the main reason of having so many healthcare jobs in the county.

Service jobs have rebounded in West Georgia and have rebounded quicker than the state overall. Smith predicts that Carroll County will experience service-related jobs to reach 90,000 by the middle of 2014 and continue to grow through 2014. The healthcare sector will experience the bulk of the predicted growth with an expected 16,000 jobs next year.

The housing market has begun to improve as well.

“We are seeing nearly twice the number of housing permits this year opposed to last year,” said Smith.

Georgia is ranked twelfth in foreclosure rates.

“Keep in mind, a year ago we were ranked eighth, and two years ago we were ranked third,” said Smith. “This is one of those rankings where we would like to be at the bottom.”

The average days a house stays on the market has dropped significantly as well. Two years ago, a house sat on the market for 146 days. Today, it sits on the market for about 111 days, 30 percent less time. Smith also said that houses are gaining their value back. Homes lost 30 percent or more of their value, whereas now, they are only losing 10 to 20 percent.

“So what we see is a drop in foreclosures, rising prices, flat new listings, and what this means is the shift in the market is in favor of the seller,” said Smith.“We are still experiencing some pain here, but we are not at a point where we were last year or the year before last. So we are doing much better. I look across the audience and I can see that people feel a lot better,” said Smith.

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