Yet again, Albany has found itself on a list of poorest communities in the nation. This is nothing new, of course. I remember the last list that came out, pointing out how poor our community was then. Of course, then Albany mayor Willie Adams argued that Albany was still a great place to live and work. I guess that may be true if you don’t expect more out of your home town.
In a report on WALB, several people who work with the poor touched on some of the issues in our community. Employment is always a key factor in any poor community. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.
Albany may never be the place where people in the region come to fulfill their hopes and dreams, but it is a community that desperately needs to move in that direction just a bit.
In a world where cities must actively compete with on another to attract businesses to their town, we in the community have seen practically nothing from our leaders. We see no real effort to bring new jobs to our town. Not real jobs, anyways.
As I’ve written before, Olive Garden and Gander Mountain are all fine and good, but these are minimum wage jobs. Most of them aren’t even full time jobs. They’re perfect for high school and college students looking to supplement their income. These are not jobs that will grow a community and help it rebound from 30 years of stagnation.
Perhaps our leaders should consider which jobs are the most sought after in this area. Miller, Proctor & Gamble, and MCLB are the top of the list. While we’re unlikely to get another Marine base – we’re doing well to keep the one we have – the other two are manufacturing jobs. These are the jobs that get people out of poverty.
However, there are roots to poverty that even these experts miss. Education, for example. Educated people are rarely satisfied with poverty, and higher education is statistically proven to result in greater lifetime earning. There is little that the Albany City Commission or the Dougherty County Commission can do to affect education, so that falls squarely on the school system.
While we currently have a superintendent that I have spent little effort in blasting, and for good reason, we’re still well away from where we need to be. We trust our school system to educate our students and make them productive members of society. However, sources familiar with Cooper Tire’s decision to leave Albany have indicated that part of the issue was how poorly educated potential workers were in Albany.
The truth is, poverty is a difficult issue to tackle. There are no simple solutions, unfortunately. However, all of them require people to step up and focus on the causes, rather than the symptoms. While wonderful people do good work in helping the poor, that doesn’t solve poverty. They’re band aids that, while necessary, aren’t going to offer any answers.
Over the next few days, I will be taking a look at some of the potential solutions that we, the people, can take to try and make our community a better place for all of us.