Recent economic history of Haralson County, Georgia (2005)


Rural economic development in general and Haralson County in particular is the subject of 2004 WGTA "think tank" commentary here.

A large academic reading list concerning economic development is published by Georgia Tech here.

Haralson County is profiled at length in the December 2005 issue of the business serial Georgia Trend (formerly linked here). The March 2006 issue continues the related story of the automobile industry in Georgia (formerly linked here). Then the December 2008 issue describes the auto parts industry and other aspects of the county economy more recently here.

Date: Sat, 18 Jun 2005 23:21:29 -0400
To: "Jamie B. Cohran"
From: R I Feigenblatt
Subject: Some county economic history

Hey Jamie,

When I became acquainted with [John] this year, I landed up
bringing his attention to the rag-tag portal of online information
about Haralson County I had accumulated here:

John remarked that he expected that one of these data collections
would show income in the county was down quite a bit.

Curious about how true this might be, I took a peek at the data
the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Commerce Department
provides down to the county level.

Since 2001, there has been a modest downturn in average
personal income - much like one sees at the national level,
if only a bit more intense. But as of 2003, the last year for which
data is available, average personal income in Haralson County
was still way ahead of what it was, say in 1992, in terms of buying
power - $9 for every $8 back in 1992.

But there was one very catastrophic trend in Haralson County
as the century turned. The average proprietor income has
plummeted like a rock in recent years.

When I mentioned this at the Historical Society meeting last week,
Barry Newman shrugged his shoulders and said it was nothing
new - that in-county business had been in decline for decades.

While this hardly surprised me, I still thought the particular thing
I had uncovered was stunning enough that I wanted to look at
numbers going back well before 1992. I could easily dig out
county numbers going back to 1969 and plot them up. So I've
stuck three graphs covering the span 1969-2003 (about half
of the proverbial "three score and ten") ...[herein]

Perhaps your newspaper might like to write up something
based on these graphs. They tell part of the story of what's
happened to Haralson County in the decades since the film
"Buchanan on Parade" was made, whose showing was the
subject of your earlier article. [above] shows
how county population, job and proprietor numbers have changed.
I elected to use a logarithmic vertical axis. In such a scheme a
constant (i.e. exponential) growth rate shows up as a straight line.
You'll notice that population has grown at a rather constant rate.
But in-county job growth has been largely stagnant in the long term
- with some precipitous downturns, most notably the loss of about
one job in five in the early 90s. Perhaps in no small part a reaction,
there has been rapid multiplication of proprietorships. They've had
uneven growth, but have expanded faster than population has in
the long run. At the start of the period there were six jobs in county
for every proprietorship, now there aren't even three. (In 2003, there
were 328 farm proprietors and 2057 non-farm ones, totalling 2385.) [above] shows
what the loss of jobs within the county has meant for the fraction
of earnings (jobs + proprietor income) which county residents
earn within their home county. At the start of the period, only one
dollar in twenty was earned outside of the county. But starting in
the early 70s, these outside earnings grew steadily for 15 years,
punctuated by a virtual explosion as the 90s began and massive
job losses within the county forced people to look for employment
elsewhere. Thereafter the fraction of income earned within the
county held steady at about 60% - until the new century began
and it started to recede again. [above] provides a
happier ending to the story than one might fear from the facts
thus far presented. By finding work outside of the county, our
people have managed not only to maintain their incomes, but
to expand them as well. The 70s was a turbulent time of ups
and downs, but the 80s and 90s showed rather steady growth
in inflation-corrected average per capita income. Only with the
new century do we see a small but stubborn downturn.

Sadly, however, the fate of owners of county non-farm firms
has been both turbulent and bleak. But this misfortune has not
greatly impacted the county as a whole because its been a
very long time since in-county nonfarm proprietorships have
contributed more than 10% of total personal income here.

In 1969, the average in-county nonfarm business delivered up
an income which supported more than two people. But by 2003,
it only supported the better part of a single person. And as late
as 1999, it had been supporting a whole person. The dramatic
decline in the first years of the 21st century parallels that seen
in the early 80s - but it probably stings a lot worse if there is no
other substantial family income. This is also true because, unlike
the collapse in the early 80s, it follows a period of fairly even
performance for many years. No wonder they hold prayer
meetings at the Chamber of Commerce!

I have no words of wisdom for in-county proprietors. I don't even
know quite WHY they have been doing so poorly in the last FEW
years. Maybe a lot of them are retailers (I'm too lazy to look it up)
and the opening of things like Arbor Place Mall in Douglasville and
the arrival of Home Depot in Carrollton have siphoned off many
long-time customers. If this is the case, then surely the new Super
WalMart is the coup de grace.

The arrival of the massive Honda transmission plant will pump a
lot of money into the area, some of which local small business
people can hope to capture. And I'm gratified to see the county
Chamber of Commerce giving seminars on exporting to Canada
and getting people involved with online commerce, too.

Newspapers relate news - some call it the first draft of history.
But maybe some of the historical DETAILS I've related here
would come as news to movers and decision makers in our
area. Weigh if an article discussing these facts might not make
for interesting reading in your newspaper. (As of now, I'm not
citing the charts within a Web page in the form of any story I'm
publishing online.)

I'd be pleased to answer any questions you might have.