Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy

The challenge of brain drain has existed for years in areas around the nation.  The South is no different, although perhaps more exaggerated and slower to respond.  As I grew up in Social Circle, all I wanted to do was get the hell out of my small town and find a job, home, and surroundings that seemed to fit me more than from whence I came.  Many college-age kids and younger are the same.  This is not to say I do not deeply love Walton County (God’s country) and recognize the idyllic childhood I had there.  I grew up recognizing I was a square peg in a round hole, and I felt like an escape would provide the upward mobility I sought while not interfering with/ ruffling the feathers of those within the cultural climate I was reared.  The early recognition that I was a bit different forced me to reconcile that staying in my small town would mean a constant outsider feeling accompanied with a general uphill battle for any of my ideas and presence in certain circles.  So like a number of youth across the nation, I left and come back for family visits, events of friends who stayed behind and not much else.  I wait with baited breath for Walton County’s prosperity and commercial growth.  I sing its praises as often as I am able and I encourage as many to move there as possible, yet the struggle to be accepted as I am (more progressive, assertive, and business oriented) will always halt any dreams of returning.

But what if an entire generation chooses to leave their home towns?  What if few decide to come back?  What happens to the rural small towns they leave and how do those towns sustain themselves over time?  What happens when my generation reverses white flight and we all move back into urban areas?

You may have noticed it in your own town and among your own neighbors.  My generation has little patience for lack of amenities and we frankly do not comprehend how you work or live without reliable WiFi.  This isn’t unique to a certain area of the Southeast.  This is representative of a larger generational shift across the nation.  The opportunity to be something other than someone’s child has its own draw, and readily available choices of higher paying jobs is incredibly seductive.

In the last six months I have engaged in a leadership class called Georgia Forward.  Initially a nonprofit offshoot from Central Atlanta Progress, this organization partners with cities around Georgia to produce solutions to the local community’s challenges.  These challenges are identified by a steering committee of local officials (namely the local Chamber, from what I can tell), and are then posed in the form of questions to the group of fifty class members, a third of which are locals.

The area to which my class was partnered is Troup County.  Rich in textile history and manufacturing industry jobs, Troup County is an ideal location for Georgians to stake their claim and build their dreams.  Yet the cities of LaGrange, West Point, and Hogansville are finding it challenging to attract and retain young talent.  With little to no quality of place attributes (nightlife, retail establishments, civic organizations), I found myself both very familiar with and appallingly shocked as to why the residents could not recognize their own challenges.   The juxtaposition of those who enjoy the non-urban lifestyle that Troup County offers is in direct contrast to the preferences of those they wish to attract and retain.

This is not new, or foreign to me.  It is becoming so damn common across Georgia I often wish to beat my head against the wall in frustration.  I have seen this manifest in Macon, Augusta, Monroe, on recent visits to Americus, Albany, and certainly in my hometown of Social Circle.  There is a generational difference that contributes to the challenge, but also an ever-present racial one, and at its roots, economic.

I did not think of it as a generational problem across the nation until I recently finished the memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.  The book was so incredibly gripping- painfully so at times.  The tome spoke such truth to the life I have known here where, albeit less violence and drugs as represented in Vance’s life, my own experience knows well the depth of family loyalty, the need for escaping one’s hometown, and the ties that forever bind us by the heartstrings to the challenges we try to leave behind. Continue reading “Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy”

Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill

 In every political system we have abuses of power, some more than others.  They are not uncommon, and as long as the abuses are not egregious they can often times be overlooked.  That does not make it right, yet one must pick their battles.  It should also be said that the very legislators who commit these may do so because they sincerely have good intents.  Sadly though, the general public is not always aware that some bills begin under these circumstances, and a bill’s origins often offer a more comprehensive view of the legislation.  I would like to shed some light on one such case.

In 2016, the AJC reported on Representative Earl Ehrhart (R-36, Powder Springs) intervening in an investigation at Georgia Tech where he threatened and then followed through on reduced funding for the research institution the next legislative session after the outcome of the school’s investigation.  You see, despite thirty-eight years in the Georgia General Assembly and being a past Rules Chairman under Speaker Richardson, Ehrhart is only a sub-committee Chairman.  That subcommittee happens to be the House Appropriations sub-committee on Higher Education.

That’s right- Rep. Ehrhart holds the purse strings for all the colleges and universities across the state.  Those same universities that are churning out the talent in our state to put it on Forbes’ List of the next tech meccas.

Follow me now? Continue reading “Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill”

“So…What do you do?”

On a personal note….

I haven’t written in some months due to the fact that life got in the way.  An engagement, a house renovation, a move that combined two households, a death of a grandfather, a near death and hospitalization of a grandmother, identity theft, vehicle theft, and loss of health insurance will do that to a woman….even Steel Magnolias bruise and bend.  Yet I am consistently like a bad penny: I just keep turning up and will continue to offer my opinions (for whatever they are worth to others) for as long as I am able.  I intend to spend the next little bit writing through all of the topics I have wanted to cover and yet did not have the time to do so in the last few months, so bear with me as I bear witness and I hope that I can offer insight/ explanation as we go along together.

And now back to the reason you’re here….

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“What do you do?”

People ask this of one another because we search for common ground and for safe topics in small talk.  Alas, my job description usually isn’t anything like that.  People see the term “political consultant” and “lobbyist” as a loaded gun, aimed at their rights, their perceptions of how things should be, or they see me as some sort of elite class.

I repeatedly have to tell them it’s really not anything remotely like what you see on House of Cards. 

I am sincerely not powerful and my work is more on the side of being kind to everyone- even when they are not kind to me rather than passionately debating legislators or playing puppet master behind the scenes.  I am not debating that the Remy Denton types of lobbyists exist, I am just here to tell you: that isn’t me.

I typically answer that question with a shoulder shrug and the factual statement, “I talk to people.”  Many times before I have also asserted that I think a monkey could do my job.  To be honest, there are probably primates that are more fully functioning than a LOT of people in their jobs, but I digress…Now that I have had the fortune of meeting a number of people who are very book-smart but have zero ability to communicate effectively nor manage a filter on themselves, I have come to value my own diplomacy skills a bit better.  Not everyone can take rejection well, nor know they are being purposefully left out of conversations and still try to make a difference.

I would say these are my greatest gifts. 

Hearing “no” is simply part of the process.  Brush it off.  The more important question is always, “what will get you to “yes”?” Continue reading ““So…What do you do?””

Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded

georgiaredclayThe holiday season is drawing to a close, and soon the legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly will be upon us.  As the state closes out its year, we look to the future and what promise or plague our policy makers will bestow upon us.  I have spent an unhealthy amount of time this season pondering the fate of Georgia, as if I have any real means of addressing it.  I have not blogged in some time, as I have had little hope that the politics of the day are bearing anything other than strange fruit.  It is hard, even for an eternal optimist in these days of constant rain to see the silver lining.  Across the red hills, I see a lot of barriers that not only exist, but are perpetuated without real cognizance of their consequence.

Along with the temperature, I see the passion of Georgia’s people heating up like a kiln.  Many of us in the political sphere refer to this time as “the calm before the storm” of legislative session.  We spend time with our families, count our blessings, and prepare ourselves for the battle of will in government.  Under the surface though, there is something simmering here and in the nation that Presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter movement have accentuated and possibly exploited.

It is widely assumed that the upcoming session will be brief and not much policy other than education passed.  Incumbents need time to raise money and campaign in their districts.  This abbreviated session may be a mixed bag of course, addressing a big problem, yet not the only one the state faces.  I am grateful to see the QBE funding formula finally addressed (as the last time was almost before my birth), yet I cannot shake the very real feeling I have had for the last five years or so.

The General Assembly is thinking too small. Continue reading “Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded”

Alpharetta: THE City for Female Entrepreneurs

wemadethat_630x420-300x200I love Georgia, business, and promoting women.  So when I see a headline that embraces all three- I’m tickled pink!  It would seem that Alpharetta has been named by Goodcall.com as THE city in the US for female entrepreneurs.  Here’s the full article regarding the stats and other cities that made the top ten. Continue reading “Alpharetta: THE City for Female Entrepreneurs”