Barnes outlines steps for NW Georgia growth

Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes spoke Monday at the Cartersville/Bartow County Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon about necessary steps to help facilitate the growth of Northwest Georgia.

Hundreds of business people, government officials and community leaders crowded into the Etowah Ballroom of the Clarence Brown Conference Center Monday to hear former Gov. Roy Barnes speak at the quarterly meeting of the Cartersville-Bartow Chamber of Commerce.


Barnes, a Cobb County resident, served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1992 to 1998 and as Georgia’s 80th governor from 1999 to 2003.

When introducing Barnes, Parnick Jennings, the meeting moderator, joked that he had finally succeeded in getting Barnes to speak after three years of trying.

“It’s not that I have been trying to be difficult to get,” Barnes said. “It’s just that I think it’s time for others to speak. I don’t know what old, worn-out governors want to talk about anyway.”

Barnes reminisced about the Cobb and Bartow counties of older times when they were primarily rural.

“In my lifetime, we have seen the booming of this entire region,” he said. “Bartow is growing at a much faster rate than Cobb because Cobb is about developed out. Bartow has been growing by 30 to 37 percent every 10 years and will continue to do so. That is true of the entire Atlanta region.

“What I want to discuss with you today is actually a question. ‘What do we need to do to continue this growth without destroying this quality of life that we all treasure?’”

He said three requirements are essential to Georgia’s continued growth.

“The first is transportation,” he said. “We must have adequate transportation to make sure this region grows and does not suffocate. When I was governor, I proposed a highway extension running from I-85 across to I-75 on what was called the ‘Northern Arc,’ which then swung further west across I-20 to south of Newnan where it would connect with the Fall Line Freeway, so truckers could entirely bypass Atlanta.”

Barnes said that option still needs to be developed, although it would have to be located further out from Atlanta and be heavily tolled for trucks.

“If we don’t do something to relieve traffic around the metro area, the traffic, especially the trucks, will choke the entire region,” he said.

Another opportunity lies in a high-speed rail transportation system.

“The state of Georgia owns the right of way of the former Western & Atlantic corridor that runs from Atlanta to Chattanooga,” he said. “It is being leased by CSX, but we must be able to use that right-of-way for some type of high-speed transportation corridor. If we don’t, we are missing the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Barnes said the second requirement is education.

“We have made great strides in education, but we have only scratched the surface,” he said. “Just like we need infrastructure and capital for infrastructure, we also need intellectual capital. There is a gap between the jobs created by industries and the skills of the workers necessary to fill those jobs. We should be panicked about that, but we seem to not be concerned.”

Barnes said when he was governor, if an industry came calling to consider relocating, they didn’t ask about the tax rate.

“The first thing they asked about was the state’s high dropout rate,” he said. “They were afraid there weren’t enough qualified workers.”

The third requirement, Barnes said, is leadership.

“I am disgusted with leadership to a large extent,” Barnes said. “Local level leadership is far superior to what we see on a state and national level. The local leaders have to actually solve problems —  make sure the garbage gets picked up, that the water is there when you turn on the spigot and you can flush the commode and nothing comes back — but on the state and particularly the national level, and I’m talking about both Democrats and Republicans, the purpose of elected leaders is to actually solve problems and to accomplish that you have to talk to each other.

“And the voters, this base on one side and this base on the other, cannot condemn those who actually want to talk across the aisle and be able to bring about solutions.”

Barnes said we need a generation of leaders that are more concerned about the next generation than the next election.

“We need to elect a few one-term folks to office that are willing to say ‘I am going to solve this and I don’t care what the political consequences are,’” he said. “You put that together with infrastructure improvement, the capital expenditure in roads and transportation and the intellectual capital you need and you will prosper. Otherwise you will perish.”

Last modified onMonday, 07 August 2017 23:14
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