Following Kemp’s remarks, Pat Wilson, the state economic development commissioner, declined to describe Marlowe’s specific job duties or say how much will be allocated to the Rural Strike Team’s budget. Marlowe was not available for comment.
State legislators from both parties agree on the need for rural economic development. Rep. Bill Yearta, a first-term Republican from Sumter County, said people buttonhole him about healthcare, taxes and the economy.
“Creating jobs in my district is an important thing to do,” he said.
Farming, the economic backbone in south Georgia, has suffered a tough few years with hurricanes, Chinese tariffs imposed on Georgia staples such as cotton, pecans and peanuts in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, and disruptions caused by COVID-19.
“It has had its challenges,” Yearta said.
Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Camilla, said his area must improve job creation to prevent young people from leaving to find work elsewhere, splitting families.
“We are educating kids, but they are not staying,” he said. “They can go to urban areas and make more money where there’s much greater opportunity for them. And that causes us a great concern.”
Economic development under Kemp frequently benefits areas outside metro Atlanta. On Wednesday, power-sports distributor Outdoor Network said it will build a warehouse and factory in Albany, creating 92 jobs.
Companies have also recently been recruited to Alma, Americus and Hinesville. And 10 small towns were selected on Wednesday for a tax-incentive program for rural job creation. All but Stone Mountain are located outside metro Atlanta. The others are Colquitt, Donalsonville, Hawkinsville, Hiawassee, Leesburg, Moultrie, Thomson, West Point and Woodbury.
--Staff writer Christopher Quinn contributed to this article.