22 Questions in 2022: What’s Troup County’s biggest opportunity for growth?

Published 9:30 am Sunday, February 27, 2022

While Troup County and the city of LaGrange has seen tremendous growth in recent years, this is not without its challenges. In interviews with community leaders, the labor shortage and housing crisis topped the list for what they consider the biggest challenges.

Mayor Jim Thornton said this pressure is not unexpected with the growth of the community and that leaders will have to continue to respond to problems as they arise.

“We know we are going to grow as a community. That’s going to put additional pressure on our systems. We will probably continue adding things like police officers [and] firefighters. We know we’re going to have to continue to do things like that to respond to the growing needs in the community,” Thornton said.

Thornton said he sees unfilled jobs as the biggest challenge of the community right now. He said the community needs to work on attracting people to fill the positions currently available.

“The biggest challenge we have right now, as a community, [is] we have a lot of unfilled jobs. We need to do everything we can to help attract more people to the community,” Thornton said. “I don’t think that necessarily has to be radical growth or explosive growth that you can’t sustain. We definitely need to be growing as a community because we have jobs that are going unfilled.”

County Manager Eric Mosley agreed with Thornton that the workforce is a challenge right now. He said the county is blessed to have industries expanding, but the county needs to make sure it is working to fill the positions.

“Our biggest challenge is the workforce, just having enough people to fill the great amount of jobs that we have,” Mosley said. “We certainly are very blessed as a community to have lots of wonderful industries who all appear to be needing to expand. On the other side of that is having enough employees to be able to fill all of these thousands of jobs that are currently available.”

Scott Malone , president of the Development Authority of LaGrange, said he believes housing is the main challenge right now.

“Our biggest challenge for LaGrange, who’s the driver for Troup County? It’s housing. We have 24,000 people that drive in for our great jobs every day. Why do they have to drive in? There’s nowhere to live,” Malone said.

Malone said there is not currently enough housing stock and part of this is due to the sewer infrastructure not being what developers need it to be.

“We don’t have the housing stock. The biggest driver to developers and housing stocks [is] sewer infrastructure. While we have the guts of the system in place, we don’t have a lot of the bones that developers need to be able to [build],” Malone said. “We’re working hard and the city leadership has bonded lots of money to try and put that infrastructure in place, but it takes time.”

Thornton said housing is a priority for him and the city of LaGrange.

“[We] will continue to work on trying to develop housing opportunities and other things that might be an attraction to people,” he said.

Malone said he has seen an increase in demand for multi-family housing from millennials and people moving in from out of town.

“They want to live in a multi-family environment. They want to live in an apartment that has all the amenities,” Malone said.

“We’ve been a little slow to kind of understand the need for that, but we’re catching up. We’ve got a long way to go to catch up.”

Thornton said he thinks these challenges are related to the current growth that LaGrange is seeing.

He said this is not necessarily a bad problem to have.

“I always tell people these are good problems to have. You would much rather be addressing issues related to a growing, thriving community, then you would be trying to address issues related to stagnation or decline. They are issues we have to work on and we will,” Thornton said.

Thornton highlighted a few of the ways the city of LaGrange is currently addressing the challenges of the community.

“We’re already working on improving things. We’re already working on building out additional infrastructure, parks, trails and so forth. Road projects are coming out,” he said.

“There’s nothing transformative that I think we’re working on, but we will continue to focus on those areas that we do need to make progress in.”