By Tom Knighton
Albany is the fourth poorest community in the nation, according to DailyFinance.com, a financial website owned by AOL, in a list published on their website Oct. 21 of this year. The website calculated its decision based on multiple criteria, but primarily on the median household income. Other factors that contributed to Albany’s ranking included an unemployment rate “substantially higher than the national average” as well as a reported 27.7% of the metro area’s population living below the poverty line.
The national median household income, listed at just over $50,000 in 2009 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is over $16,000 more than the median household income in the Good Life City. This comes after Cooper Tire and Merck opting to leave town and with little obvious interest in new industries coming in to replace those lost jobs.
This listing follows a lists Forbes’ put together in 2009 and 2010 and had Albany listed among the top ten then as well. In 2009, Forbes used average per capita income, rather than median household income. That listing reported a per capita income of $21,359. The 2010 list was of best places for business and careers. In that, Albany ranked 179 out of all 184 metropolitan statistical areas.
The Albany MSA includes Dougherty, Lee, Terrell, Worth, and Baker counties. Data for all five counties are averaged together. As a result, Lee County falls into the same category despite a higher level of wealth relative to the rest of the MSA, while poor counties pull the average lower.
So what did Albany officials say regarding the news? Albany city commissioner Bob Langstaff said, “Our situation is dire, but our hope is alive thanks to programs like the Strive2Thrive initiative.” Langstaff went on to say, “This is how the course of our city can be righted.”
County commissioner Ewell Lyle had doesn’t see this as a problem for just Albany. “Although I am on the Dougherty County Commission and not the City Commission, about two-thirds of the population of District 4 is made up of City of Albany residents. Sometimes we forget that City Residents also live in Dougherty County. So it is not just a City problem, as some might think,” he said regarding the news.
He cited many potential causes, but named education as one of the key causes that also serves as a potential solution. “I feel that education is the basic issue that must be addressed. It is the root cause of the other two areas- jobs and poverty.”
Lyle applauded the recent efforts of the Dougherty County School System to launch the career academy as a move in the right direction. “This will develop a Charter school that is geared to the needs of the business community and develops a curriculum that provides knowledge and skills that the business community needs for their employees to possess when they start in the working world. They will be prepared and have the skills that businesses need,” he said in an email.
County commission chairman Jeff Sinyard pointed toward the home as the root of many problems that have contributed towards landing Albany on such lists. “It starts at home and obviously it’s a situation where at no time in our history is getting an education been more important focusing on keeping kid in school, focusing on all the issue that come from poverty and not getting education.” Sinyard says that local officials are working on the problem, but it will take time. “These are serious issues that affect very, very good people and obviously there’s going to be a lot of work to do. We are just starting to put a dent in some of these areas and have a long way to go,” he said.