Retirees bring much to the community

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: A study by the Selig Center finds that for every 100 retirees who relocate to Georgia, 55 jobs are created

In Southwest Georgia, leaders have often spoken of the benefit of attracting retirees to the area.

A report released Monday by the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth shows why that segment of society is worth intense attention from our area’s lawmakers, local-level officials and economic development personnel. According to the Selig Center, retirees bring a great deal to the community table.

Officials with the center say that for every 1.8 retirees who move to Georgia, one new job is generated by businesses and agencies that cater to the age group, which tend to be hospitals, home construction, restaurants, doctor’s offices and real estate. In recent years, they said, Georgia has averaged attracting 16,000 retirees annually who have brought a net worth of $8 billion into the state while creating about 28,800 jobs.

They also bring a level of stability in a time of economic instability.

“Retirees make rural areas less vulnerable to the ups and downs of commodity markets and less exposed to global competition,” said Jeff Humphreys, director of the UGA Selig Center. “Relative to people with jobs, in-migrating retirees have steady incomes that are not dependent on local economic conditions. So retirees’ pension, investment and Social Security incomes can help cushion layoffs or reductions in hours worked.”

Examining U.S. Census data from 2007 to 2011, Humphreys found that most Georgia retirees come from other states, with the No. 1 source being Florida during that period. New York was the second-highest source of relocating seniors, with New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan all big contributors.

It’s interesting to note that these figures come from the period when Florida in particular was reeling from the economic recession, which saw many home values in the state plummet. While the economy is rebounding, that’s something to keep in mind.

But Georgia also has a great deal going for it that appeals to retirees, Humphreys noted, with warm weather, natural amenities and a tax structure that’s beneficial to the age group. And the retirees will be an economic force for at least another decade and a half.

“Demographic and economic trends are coming together to create an unprecedented opportunity in U.S. economic history for retiree-based economic development. The retirement of the baby boomers is a very strong demographic trend that is virtually locked in until approximately 2028,” Humphreys said. “A lot of leading-edge boomers who have been locked into their current homes by the housing bust are beginning to move as the ice thaws in the nation’s housing markets. That’s happening right now.”

Southwest Georgia needs to strongly promote the area’s attributes that should be attractive to those who are thinking about moving to our state. Certainly we have the Florida-like warm weather, plenty of restaurants and a competitive cost of living. In Albany alone, we also have good medical care system and a surprisingly — to many — list of cultural amenities, including the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Theatre Albany, the Albany Museum of Art, the Albany Civil Rights Institute, the Albany Area Arts Council, the Flint RiverQuarium and Imagination Theater, Chehaw’s park and zoo, the Thronateeska Heritage Center and its state-of-the-art Wetherbee Planetarium, and the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s newly opened Senior Enrichment Center. For those who like hunting and fishing and other outdoor activities, there are plenty to choose from. And we’re only a few hours from the Florida beaches and north Georgia mountains, depending on your mood. Plus, we’re a short drive from the hometown of a president, Georgia’s folklife play Swamp Gravy and other attractions.

It’s easy, in day-to-day life, to overlook a lot of these quality-of-life aspects in your hometown and region. We’d do well to stop a moment to take note of them … and get the word out.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board