VDT and Chamber feuding about which is the most negative

popcorn
Image courtesy Fir0002/Flagstaffotos under GFDL v1.2

Break out the popcorn! The VDT and the Chamber of Commerce are feuding. About which one is the most negative! Also, the Chamber hates agriculture. And everything good around here is to the Chamber’s credit, but anything bad is not their fault; just ask them.

The VDT editorialized 18 October 2012, Is Valdosta really one of the poorest? mostly criticizing the recent report that ranked Valdosta MSA as the third poorest in the country. The VDT added:

Now that the world wide web has broadcast this story, what can be done locally to combat this image? And what are the various entities involved in job and business recruitment, i.e. the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Authority primarily, doing to fix the underlying problem — low household income and the high percentage of individuals living below the poverty line.

Valdosta can attract retailers. But can Valdosta step it up and attract larger industries offering high paying jobs? Has the community turned away from what made this a successful, viable up and comer in the state, namely manufacturing and agriculture? These industries sustained Valdosta for many years and provided good, well paying, solid blue collar and middle income jobs. Educational opportunities are far greater today, there are more high school, tech and college graduates in the area than ever, and blaming the quality of the work force is starting to lose its luster as a viable excuse for not bringing in industry. We have the land, we have the workers, we have the infrastructure and we have a great location with a good quality of life.

Perhaps the community leadership should focus on the assets that are already here and less on what’s not. Then maybe the next time a story like this appears on the Internet, Valdosta won’t be cast in such a poor light.

The Chamber fired back a broadside to its members, which I’ve included below here, since I don’t think you can find it online elsewhere. Here’s the most precious part:

Second, while there is still farmland in Lowndes County, it’s shrinking and when it sells, it’s for uses at prices that rule out agricultural use. Agriculture had begun moving to nearby more rural counties even before the cotton field at the end of Baytree Road was paved over for Valdosta Mall. Our largest tractor and farm implement dealers followed.

That’s right, farmland is good for nothing but paving over, so says the Chamber! Nevermind that knowledge-based workers generally like farmers markets with locally-grown produce. You know, knowledge-based workers such as the Chamber claims it is trying to attract. And farmers markets like Valdosta Farm Days that the city of Valdosta and Lowndes County have organized around the historic courthouse. Farmers markets that continued booming right through the recession, including selling organic produce which is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Hm, maybe the Chamber’s idea of industry and jobs and knowledge-based could use some broadening.

It’s curious how in its list of achievements the Chamber didn’t mention all the money and resources it forced the whole community to waste on last year’s school “unification” referendum, which was defeated 4 to 1 even though the Chamber and its allies outspent opponents 10 to 1.

And the Chamber curiously didn’t mention its recent good work in promoting renewable energy, especially solar power. More on that in another post. And the Chamber didn’t mention its recent interest in promoting fast Internet access here; more on that when the Chamber says something about it in a public forum.

solar and broadband are good for the economy and for PR Congratulations to the Industrial Authority on staying out of this feud and getting on with two things that actually will help attract knowledge-based businesses and employees: solar power and fast Internet access. And VLCIA is getting good PR for that! More on those things later, too.

-jsq

PS: Here’s the Chamber letter.

TO: All Chamber Members
FROM: Board of Directors of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2012 11:41:46 -0400 (EDT)
RE: Chamber Board Responds to VDT Criticism

A recent Valdosta Daily Times editorial criticized the Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Authority for not setting the clock back 25 years to when “manufacturing and agriculture” sustained Valdosta with “well paying, solid blue collar and middle income jobs”.

The editorial was based on the front page story the same day under the negative headline:

Online report: Valdosta ‘3rd poorest city in U.S.’

Only after six paragraphs did readers learn the VDT questioned information in their own story, which would have appeared factual and damaging for those not reading further.

Negative articles only serve to hinder our economic development efforts as industrial recruiters routinely check news articles on a prospective community. A more accurate story would have been an article immediately debunking the study.

The local newspaper then based their editorial that day on the story they belatedly questioned, asking “…what are the various entities involved in job and business recruitment, i.e. the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Authority primarily, doing to fix the underlying problem—low household income and the high percentage of individuals living below the poverty line. Has the community turned away from what made this a successful, viable up and comer in the state, namely manufacturing and agriculture?”

First, the manufacturing companies that have stayed in the U.S. and survived global competition are doing so by incorporating high tech equipment and computer controlled processes, so even manufacturing jobs today require a higher educated and skilled labor force than was required 25 years ago.

The Chamber has long been aware of this change in workforce skill sets and has worked hard to influence the educational level of our workforce. Our CHOICES program has consistently worked within the school systems to educate students about the importance of acquiring the educational background to compete for today’s more technologically challenging jobs, reaching about 8,500 eighth graders over the past 12 years.

Second, while there is still farmland in Lowndes County, it’s shrinking and when it sells, it’s for uses at prices that rule out agricultural use. Agriculture had begun moving to nearby more rural counties even before the cotton field at the end of Baytree Road was paved over for Valdosta Mall. Our largest tractor and farm implement dealers followed.

Our newspaper should recognize that 25 years is forever in today’s business world. The VDT had a much higher circulation and a larger number of reporters 25 years ago. It also understood the importance of working together to promote our community, not tear it down.

The Chamber is a membership organization with approximately 1,500 members, 86 percent of them small businesses. The Chamber plays an important role in building a strong, economically healthy community, as does the Industrial Authority. Our local governments create the infrastructure that makes job creation possible. Our local school systems and higher education institutions have a responsibility to produce an educated, qualified workforce.

Everyone has a role to play and a job to do as we work together to grow more and better jobs for our citizens — including our local newspaper.

The VDT asks what the Chamber is doing to “fix” low household income and high percentage of individuals living below the poverty line? To list only three of our many business development initiatives:

  • Assisting our residents grow their businesses through the SEEDS Business Resource Center

The SEEDS Center serves 500-600 clients each year, primarily local people who want to start their own businesses. More than 200 new businesses have gotten off to a good start with assistance from the SEEDS Center.

  • Growing jobs for college and university graduates

The winners of the annual Business Plan Competition have together created 54 high-wage jobs in Lowndes County.

  • Promoting drug-free lifestyles

Through our DRUGS DON’T WORK Program, 234 businesses save about $250K per year in Workers Comp premiums while providing their employees a drug-free workplace.

We appreciate the fact that the local newspaper needs and should report news; however, we will not succeed by tearing each other down. Success will only come if we work together to improve the economic health of our community.


Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce
416 North Ashley Street
P.O.Box 790
Valdosta, GA 31603

1 thought on “VDT and Chamber feuding about which is the most negative

  1. Jane Osborn

    Our CHOICES program has consistently worked within the school systems to educate students about the importance of acquiring the educational background to compete for today’s more technologically challenging jobs, reaching about 8,500 eighth graders over the past 12 years.
    Yes, but was there any followup to find out whether or not those children they “reached” actually graduated?

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