Crawford, Twiggs residents head to cities for work

mstucka@macon.comMarch 5, 2013 

On a typical day in Crawford County, five people get in their cars to go to work -- and four of them drive to a job outside the county limits, estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

“That’s because we don’t have very many industries,” said Carol Jackson, executive director of the Development Authority of Crawford County. (On Tuesday night, county commissioners plan a 6 p.m. town hall meeting in the Knoxville courthouse to hear from the public about whether they should take out a loan to buy property for another industrial park.)

Estimates on commuting patterns scheduled for release Tuesday suggest that about 1,164 Crawford County workers stay in that county. About 1,944 drive to Bibb County for jobs, 1,175 to Houston County and 936 to Peach County, with smaller numbers to other locations.

The new commuting pattern statistics, from the American Community Survey, show Crawford County is not unique in Middle Georgia. More rural or impoverished places serve as bedroom communities for the more developed, larger counties.

Greg George, director of Middle George State College’s Center for Economic Analysis, said it’s a lot like the classic suburban/urban comparison, but “scaled down a little bit for Middle Georgia.”

George said Macon and Robins Air Force Base have huge influxes of workers from surrounding communities.

At Robins Air Force Base alone, an estimated 9,152 civilian and military workers come from outside Houston County. In all, more than a third of the base’s workers commute, including two from Troup County, on the Alabama border, base statistics show.

“It’s the largest industrial complex in Georgia,” said Chrissy Miner, chief operating officer of the 21st Century Partnership, which describes itself as the base’s community partner.

The estimates also show Houston County sends Bibb County about 8,153 workers, while Bibb County sends about 4,466 back.

Middle Georgia’s smaller counties don’t have employers anywhere near the size of Robins Air Force Base or some of Bibb County’s larger employers. The Census Bureau estimates that Twiggs County residents are 2.3 times more likely to work in Bibb County than they are to work in Twiggs County. The same statistic exists for Jones County, where an estimated 7,122 residents work in Bibb County and 3,070 stay in Jones County to work.

One of the rare exceptions: Monroe County, where an estimated 4,515 work in their home county and 4,035 commute to Bibb. Census Bureau statistics suggest about 1,219 other Monroe County residents commute north toward metro Atlanta, including Henry, Fulton, Clayton, Cobb and DeKalb counties.

George said over time -- with economic recovery, more Georgia growth spurts and more economic activity in the Southeast particularly -- Monroe County will get pulled more strongly in different directions.

“Atlanta’s moving south,” George said. “I’m hearing more about people not being afraid of the Atlanta commute and vice versa.”

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