ALBANY, Ga. -- Saying it's time the region returned to its roots, Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Catherine Glover says she believes the area has an untapped resource in the future of agri-tourism.
"Agriculture is our economic lifeblood," Glover said, looking into her crystal ball at how 2011 might shape up. "With the restructuring of manufacturing locally, we feel agri-tourism could play an important role in our future. People want to understand where their food comes from, and they want to feel close to the source.
"We're talking about micro-dairies, creameries, cheese makers, even wineries and breweries."
Glover contends that the recession has caused a restructuring of the entire economy, and new thinking is needed to rebound.
"I think we need to take a look at trends and what we are seeing is people simplifying their lives and returning to their roots with small businesses and entrepreneurs," she said. "We need to diversify our business models. I think in the past we've been too dependent on large manufacturers.
"Health care is an emerging field we need to take a hard look at. Everything is on the table. We need to work the free enterprise system to develop a diverse, home-grown economy."
Glover also contends that Albany remains the retail economic hub of Southwest Georgia and points to a recent tag count of vehicles taken in September of last year at the Albany Mall.
"We conducted a tag count at the Albany Mall to help determine the percentages of cars in the parking lot from Dougherty County and other counties." Glover said. "The procedure was simple tabulation of each car tag in the lot. The result of the count showed 304 cars from Dougherty County and 330 tags were from other counties, including 38 from out of state. There were also 103 vehicles with specialty tags that showed no county designation, which were not counted in either total."
Dougherty County tags represented 48 percent of the total vehicles with tags where the state and country could be identified. Vehicles from outside Dougherty County. comprised 52 percent of the total.
Of the in-state tags identified, there were 50 different Georgia counties represented in the count.