Rural counties looking to HB 533 to bring industry as populations shrink

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EASTMAN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Though industry in cities across the state of Georgia have continued to flourish, rural communities are much further behind.

Researchers found that the populations in rural communities across the state are continuing to drop due to a lack of opportunity. That lack of opportunity comes as a result of one modern day tool that industries are looking for but isn’t quite up to speed in rural communities.

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“We’re keeping up even with the limited resources that we have, but just imagine what we could do if we had the right tools,” said Dodge County-Eastman Development Authority Executive Director Charles Williams.

For rural counties in Georgia, bringing in new industries is almost as hard as getting a good internet connection.

“In rural areas you have an on going problem with new technologies originating and being profitable for companies enough to deploy in larger cities, so that leaves these rural areas behind,” said Middle Georgia State Director of Economic Analysis Greg George.



According to research from a state house of representatives study committee, there’s a correlation between the availability of high speed internet and economic growth.

“It’s hard to get businesses in a community that does not have two things really–healthcare and broadband internet for driving their business and using the internet,” State Rep. Jimmy Pruett told 41NBC.

With limited growth in industry, more and more people are leaving rural communities.

“We’re going to expect to lose about 20% of the population–10% over the next 15 years. 2030 is the actual projection,” said Williams.

House bill 533 or the ‘BILD Act’ was introduced into legislation to fix that issue and bring higher speed broadband internet to rural counties.

“This bill is an effort to get the economic engine flowing to these rural areas,” George explained.

Though it passed in both houses, it could be a while before rural counties see the impact. With a census coming up soon, Pruett says the county’s population is predicted to keep shrinking.

“The population in the city of Eastman has gone down since 2010 and is projected to continue to drop, and that’s typical of almost all rural areas in Georgia,” he said.

In the meantime, Rural development authorities are doing what they can to fight that trend.

House bill 533 or the BILD Act is currently awaiting a signature from Governor Deal in order to go into effect. He has forty days after the last day of session to sign all bills that get passed during session.

‘BILD’ stands for ‘Broadband Internet Leads to Development’. Rural counties are hoping this will be a step toward more opportunity and industry in their areas.