Great news released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday should be a wake up call for those who might be wishy-washy about the consolidation vote in Bibb County coming up July 31. The Warner Robins area posted a growth rate of 2.9 percent between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011. Only five other areas, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash.; Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas; Hinesville-Fort Stewart; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, and Raleigh-Cary, N.C., showed more growth than the Robins region. Another Georgia city that is among the 50 fastest growing is Columbus. Where is the Macon area on the list? Let’s put it this way. Columbus had a net migration -- people moving into the area -- of 4,472, according to the Census Bureau. Warner Robins had a net migration of 2,743. Macon’s net migration was minus 427.
What would consolidation do for Macon? The city’s population sits at 91,351, a 6.1 percent drop since 2000. If consolidation is approved, the city/county population would increase to 155,547. Still not great shakes when it comes to a growth rate that’s almost stagnant at 1.1 percent since 2000.
One of the benefits of having a population over 100,000 is the eligibility for more federal dollars, but that’s not the only reason beaconing for a larger population. Being over that 100,000 mark helps attract industries that arbitrarily look at areas according to population size. Certainly, any large industry would be looking at the entire area that would include several surrounding counties, if Macon isn’t eliminated before getting to that step.
As citizens mull over the many pros and cons of consolidating the city and county, carry the deliberations beyond the size of the council/commission and who deserves to be the top cop or the possibility of downsizing government. Understand that there are competitors for economic development all over the nation. It is imperative that we get fit and trim in order to attract some of them to locate in Bibb County.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board