Economic development = limitless possibilities
Hamilton is the county seat for Harris County, Georgia, located in the lower Chattahoochee Region. Directly to the south is Columbus (Muscogee County), which includes Fort Benning, one of the nation’s largest military bases. Just to the northwest lies LaGrange (Troup County). Both of these communities provide expanded employment opportunities for Harris County residents. Additionally, the county is only an hour or so drive to Atlanta, located to the northeast.
Harris County relies heavily on both the construction and the service industry for the majority of employment opportunities. The retail trade sector continues to offer job opportunities and this trend is expected to continue. Retail could well become the primary employment sector in the county. Both the retail trade and service sectors are heavily dependent on tourism, a staple industry in Harris.
There are numerous tourist attractions and events in Harris County. The economic growth associated with the tourist industry and its related spin-off developments are prime economic engines for growth among the county and the municipalities. Nonetheless, as the region’s and U.S. economies continue to recover, future growth in the housing industry could cause this segment to remain a small but significant economic base.
Tourism drives economic success; others now making a difference
Harris County’s economic profile clearly reveals a strong dependence on the tourist industry and a growing dependence on the finance, insurance and real estate industries. This is due to the large growth in population over the last decade. The three largest employers in the county are the Oakview Nursing Home, Koch Industries and Callaway Gardens Resort.
Harris County can continue to strengthen and capitalize on the tourist market since the resources are in place. The development of additional tourist attractions should be encouraged and expanded upon. The location of tourist events such as such as the Steeplechase, Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival, Ossahatchee Indian Festival & Pow Wow, Wheels O’Fire Cycle Tour and the Master’s Water-Ski and Wakeboard Tournament are additional avenues for strengthening this economic base.
Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens continues to attract thousands of visitors in December, normally a slow time for tourists. The efforts of the Pine Mountain Tourism Association and the Harris County Chamber of Commerce, among others, will add to the development and the vitality of the tourism industry.
Diversity in economic base a future goal
However, since the tourism industry is susceptible to economic fluctuations, the county and municipalities must continue to diversify their economic base to offset these fluctuations in order to stabilize their economies. The weakest economic sectors are agricultural services and wholesale trade. The county and municipalities should continue to develop and strengthen these two sectors.
Harris County is a “bedroom community” of the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area and of LaGrange. As noted, both of these communities provide advanced employment opportunities to the residents of Harris County. According to the economic development inventory, approximately 50 percent of the income earned by Harris County residents is derived from employment outside of the county.
With the completion of the Kia plant in 2009, more local job opportunities evolved; and with the planned expansion of the plant, even more opportunities are possible. The Northwest Harris Business Park is located less than 10 miles from the Kia plant and already hosts several industries that support Kia, such as Daehan Solution and Johnson Controls. Efforts to continue to attract large commercial businesses to the area.
Each municipality within the county has its own identity and its own economic potential. Pine Mountain and Hamilton have capitalized on their proximity to Callaway Gardens and F.D. Roosevelt State Park by encouraging the necessary retail trade establishments such as antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, lodging and souvenir shops.
Entrepreneur friendly and work ready
Harris County has been designated as “Entrepreneur Friendly” and has ben designated “Work Ready” by the state of Georgia. The planned widening of U.S. Highway 27, which stretches from Tennessee to Florida, to four lanes will bring tremendous opportunities for tourism ventures, allowing municipalities such as Waverly Hall and Shiloh to strengthen this area of their economic base. The potential widening of Georgia Highway 85 to four lanes also would bring increased opportunities to both municipalities.
Waverly Hall is also ideally located in the southern half of the county, where the bulk of residential development has occurred, bringing a need for the neighborhood commercial development of such businesses as grocery stores, drug stores, service stations, etc.