November 5, 2011 -
As former Chairs of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, we wanted to share our perspectives on the issue of school consolidation.
Please note the name of the institution we served: “Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority.” The Authority is a consolidated entity that serves the interests of all citizens of Valdosta/Lowndes County, Hahira, Lake Park and Clyattville. The Authority is financially supported by the citizens of each of these political subdivisions, and it exists to promote our common interests, not the selfish needs of an arbitrary political boundary.
The Authority is charged with creating and sustaining jobs that improve the standard and quality of living in our community. Everyone in the community benefits when a well-paying job is added to the local economy, just as everyone in the community benefits when a literate, hard working high school graduate joins the local economy. We believe everyone can agree that there is a direct link between these two events.
Today, our primary marketing assets are highways, location, and affordable wages. We have made progress in the last 10 years harnessing the intellectual capital of VSU. While VSU serves as a terrific recruitment tool for industry, we have to rely primarily on the good people who are born-and-raised here and educated by our local schools.
Citizens of our community rightly observe that while the Authority has made progress in the last decade toward increasing the average pay scale, we still need to raise the standard. Prospective businesses should not look at us as a source of cheap labor. Rather, we should aspire to have business and industry view us as a deep reservoir of workforce talent.
We live in a region of the country that is noted more for its supply of workers than for the quality of its workers. Unfortunately, we not only fail to rise above this stereotype, but our public school test scores chronically show us to be a poster child for this very problem. It is impossible to state with accuracy how many industries never even look at Valdosta/Lowndes as a possible home because of this debilitating reputation, but we who have served the Authority know from experience that it is the prime impediment to our efforts to create the kind of jobs we would all like to have here.
At a minimum, most employers require high school diplomas or GED’s, and want people who can actually read and write, add and subtract. Too often, our local workforce cannot meet this minimum standard. We cannot attract today’s high paying jobs if we do not address the issue of the quality of our workforce.
For decades we have failed our children and thereby cheated ourselves. The time has come to hold ourselves accountable. We need to adopt a platform that will best allow us to meet our potential, and to strive for something more than “good enough”. It is time to consolidate our educational efforts and to pull together as a community united.
- Carolyn Eager, Past Chair, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (2000-2002)
- John C. Peeples, Past Chair, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (2006-2008)
- Jerry Jennett, Past Chair, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (2008-2009, 2010-2011)