The House Rural Development Council
met for the first time in Tifton May 22-23. The two-day meeting was hosted at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture on the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) campus.
Council Co-Chairs Jay Powell (R-Camilla) and Terry England (R-Auburn) opened the meeting and addressed the importance in tackling the issues facing rural Georgia. Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) thanked members for their participation and charged the council to find solutions to bring increased economic opportunity to the state’s rural areas. Local government officials – including Julie Smith, Mayor of Tifton -welcomed the council and attendees to the region, on behalf of the “Friendly City.” Matt Hauer of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and Sharon Kane of the Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development, shared statistics of rural Georgia and regional trends of population loss, access to education, and job opportunity. The council concluded the first day with presentations from Charlie Hayslett, author of the blog “Trouble in God’s Country”
, and ABAC President, Dr. David Bridges, with perspective from below the gnat line.
The council spent the second day focusing on the state of broadband in the region. Eric McRae from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government presented a current look at rural Georgia’s access to broadband. The council also heard from industry representatives from the Cable Association, Windstream, and AT&T on various challenges to broadband deployment throughout the state. The telecom companies argued that local governments’ charges for access to rights-of-way, permitting impediments, and high charges for pole attachments are one reason for less buildout of broadband in rural Georgia. The council concluded with a presentation from the House Budget & Research Office on broadband accessibility throughout the nation, and rural broadband initiatives occurring in other states.
The council will continue meeting regularly throughout the state for the remainder of the year. All presentations and the schedule for upcoming meetings can be found on the Council's web site.