Is the economy improving on the homefront?

Published 8:25 pm Friday, October 2, 2009

Bainbridge-Decatur County Development Authority Executive Director Rick McCaskill said he’s beginning to feel more optimistic about the local economy because of some serious inquiries from business and industry representatives.

“Each month, it just seems like it’s gotten better lately. We’ve gotten some good, quality inquires, and people looking at us with a whole different attitude than we’ve been seeing,” McCaskill said during a recent Development Authority meeting. “I really feel pretty confident in saying that it’s coming back now. Before, I kind of felt maybe it is. But it looks really good.”

This past year, Decatur County’s unemployment climbed to more than 13 percent after Propex, TRACO and American Yarns and Fibers closed their plants.

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August’s unemployment rate was 12.4 percent, which is a slight dip from July’s 13.0 percent. The county’s unemployment rate in August 2008 was 7.9 percent, which was when the recession started to really become apparent.

But McCaskill says along with the increased inquiries come some new companies that have added or plan to add employees, including Meredian, DaniMer and the newcomer R.W. Griffin, which is building a new facility on Spring Creek Road.

Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said Thursday there has been a slight increase in inquiries, such as the developers of a new addition to the Inland Port Center, although there’s been no permits applied for.

Hobby said local spending took a nosedive over the past year, but it’s hard to get a handle on whether consumer spending is picking up because the numbers from the Georgia Department of Revenue are inconsistent.

“We are hoping for better times, and I hope they are coming,” Hobby said.