Kemp names leader for rural job creation push

Brian Marlowe, in the green mask, responds as Gov. Brian Kemp, right, introduces him as the leader of the Rural Strike Team during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, October 21, 2020. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Brian Marlowe, in the green mask, responds as Gov. Brian Kemp, right, introduces him as the leader of the Rural Strike Team during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, October 21, 2020. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Tifton business recruiter may be asked to push rural broadband access

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday named a Tifton business recruiter to lead his effort to accelerate economic development in rural Georgia.

Brian Marlowe, 54, will start Dec. 1 as deputy commissioner for rural Georgia, replacing former state Rep. Amy Carter. Marlowe will also be the first leader of Kemp’s Rural Strike Team, a group formed last year. Marlowe has been president of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce since 2010.

Kemp and lawmakers have pushed rural broadband access to improve rural economic development, but he only briefly mentioned it during prepared remarks on Wednesday. He didn’t say if it will be a specific priority for Marlowe.

“The Strike Team will bring local developers, elected officials, industry leaders and others together,” Kemp said during a news conference. Marlowe will work with state lawmakers “to develop policies and initiatives that champion economic growth in rural Georgia.”

Kemp also didn’t discuss other methods for rural job creation, such as expanding rural transit and giving tax incentives to professionals to move to rural areas. However, he reiterated comments from last year, saying the Strike Team will partner with state agencies to develop community-specific marketing plans, target specific industries and train local leaders.

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.

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