MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - According to 2011 census data, more than one in five people in Bibb County are below the poverty level, but a group of local and state leaders want to do something about that.
State representative James Beverly, who's working to bring down Bibb County's poverty rate, says the first step is identifying where to start.
"We have to figure out what's going on in Bibb County and figure out who are the working poor," says Beverly. "A lot of people are working poor because they're making 6 or 7 bucks an hour, and so they don't actually have enough money to survive and have benefits and so forth."
Beverly and others got together Friday to talk about the future and to discuss different strategies to lower the poverty level.
Roger Clay, of the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development, says just adding more jobs to the area won't take care of the problem.
"Just getting a job still leaves people poor," says Clay. "It usually means they have to have more than one job. It also mean it's even harder to get out of that rut, because they don't have the time or energy to go to school and do whatever else they need to do to move up."
Beverly said it makes no sense to give tax credits to companies coming to Georgia if the local workforce isn't filling those jobs. Some suggested a changeup in the curriculum to match industry needs.
"We have to start thinking about our kids," says Beverly. "Not necessarily high school but in junior high school and middle school. What are their career pathways then?"
Clay agrees. He says the only way to truly solve Bibb County's poverty problem is to plan for the future.
"If you really want to turn the community around, you have to look at what needs to happen so that the kids today are doing well when they're adults."
Representative Beverly put on Friday's summit on behalf of the Poverty and Inequality Committee. That committee's job is to focus on research and strategy for achieving economic security.