“Greater Rome has a number of complex challenges to conquer to realize its vision,” reads the report, which is available in full at www.romega.com/2020/project_downloads.html.
The competitive assessment offers a detailed analysis of the state of Greater Rome’s competitive position, regional economy, demographic and socioeconomic dynamics, talent base and quality of life for residents and visitors.
“The information itself, the trends and so forth, were not a surprise,” said Chamber of Commerce President Al Hodge. “While our folks are reviewing the competitiveness report, and the data that is in it, the Market Street Services team is working toward the next phase of the study, which is the sector and target recommendations.”
For comparison purposes, the data compiled by the Market Street consultants compares Greater Rome to three other metro areas: Chattanooga, Greenville, S.C., and Lynchburg, Va.
The study determined that during the last decade population in Greater Rome grew by 6.4 percent, the slowest rate among comparison communities.
Hodge said community leaders have said for many years that fast growth, and growth at any price, is not desirable in Rome and Floyd County.
“At the same time, we’re not growing fast enough in order to create additional opportunities for the next generation,” Hodge said. “You can deduce from that that we need to continue to work on more strategies for more, and quality, growth.”
The report details that Hispanic growth in Greater Rome accounted for 91 percent of overall population growth between 2005 and 2010.
The competitiveness report concludes that educational attainment among the adult workforce has improved but still lags behind peer communities and the nation.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of adult workers who have not attained a high school diploma dropped from 28.4 percent to 23.4 percent, larger than decreases experienced across the state. However, the proportion of those without a high school diploma is greater in Rome than all other comparison communities. Almost half of more than 400 Romans who completed a survey as part of the assessment believe dropout rates remain a serious problem.
“Certainly, when we’re working with companies for expansion and working with new companies, including start-up technology enabled companies, we need to ramp up more opportunities and encourage more folks to take advantage of the opportunities that are here for training, re-training and collegiate-level work,” Hodge said.
The Market Street study reports that the health care sector has led what little economic recovery has been experienced in Greater Rome.
During the last four years employment in construction has declined 38.5 percent, and manufacturing is down 23.2 percent, both outpacing the nation.
The health care industry however, expanded by 9.1 percent, again, outpacing growth at the national level (8.6 percent).
“Part of what we’re looking for from this overall strategy are additional ways to leverage the fact that we’ll have a presence of the Medical College of Georgia in the community,” Hodge said.
A number of Romans who responded to the Market Street survey worried that Rome may have become too dependant on the health care community.
The report also indicates that improvements in real wages offer hope for enhancing community prosperity, however, parity with national wages is still lagging.
Since 2007, average nominal wages, unadjusted for inflation, in Greater Rome have increased by 19.3 percent, which is equivalent to an increase of $6,279. The consultant’s analysis suggests that a primary reason for the increase may relate to the loss of jobs in lower-paying sectors.
When the figures are adjusted for inflation, the increase drops to $3,520.
“We need to continue working on strategies to continue to increase per capita income in Rome and Floyd County,” Hodge said.
The competitive assessment indicates that all of the job gains in Rome from 2000 to 2007, when employment jumped 7.2 percent, were more than wiped out by the 10.8 percent job losses that have occurred since 2007.
The Rome-Floyd 20/20 III steering committee, which is reviewing the Market Street reports, includes members appointed by Floyd County, the city of Rome and the chamber. David Newby of Profile Extrusion serves as chairman.
The next phase in the 20/20 III process is the development of the Target Business Analysis and the Marketing Review, in which priority sectors for Rome-Floyd County’s economic development investments will be reviewed and confirmed and existing marketing programs will be assessed.