Isles needs skilled jobs

From the The Brunswick News

The Golden Isles' economy is lacking diversity and needs to expand in order to reach its full potential, one economist says.

The region has successfully tapped its tourism and retail industries, but those industries don't pay the highest wages, said Don Mathews, an economics professor at College of Coastal Georgia, following the conclusion of a regional industrial diversity study conducted by the college.

More than 42 percent of private sector employees in the coastal region, which includes Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Glynn, McIntosh and Wayne counties, work in retail trade and the leisure and hospitality industry.

But earnings in those industries can't alone boost growth.

Weekly earnings vary across industries, ranging from $342 in leisure and hospitality to $1,155 in information, and that variation can have a significant impact on the distribution of income.

"Such a high concentration of employment in low-pay industries cannot help but depress average private sector earnings in our region, relative to other regions in Georgia," the study said.

But becoming a more diverse economy doesn't happen overnight. There's no succinct plan for development that can be followed.

"It's really tricky, because economies naturally develop and grow in the areas where they have a comparative advantage ... and we obviously have that on the water and being a retirement community, so we are naturally going to grow in that way," Mathews said.

Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority, isn't surprised by the study's findings.

"We think it's a study that validates why economic development, and particularly industrial development, is important," Sparks said.

The average rate of industrial employment in Glynn County is 6.7 percent, below the nation's 8 percent average, but Sparks maintains the county has a healthy industrial base.

"I think to say we don't have a wide range is a little bit misleading, but we do have room to grow," Sparks said.

Educational opportunities in the region help when attracting new businesses, Mathews said.

"It really helps that we have the college here. It really helps that we have the technical schools," Mathews said.

"Those are at least attractions for other industries to know that there is a ready and growing pool for skilled labor."

Release Date: 1/24/2013
Source: The Brunswick News