February 18, 2013

Survey finds Dalton has low cost of living

Charles Oliver

— Gasoline prices are rising. Food is getting more expensive, and the costs of health care continue to climb everywhere. But Dalton has it better than many other places, much better.

The Council for Community and Economic Research, a nonprofit research organization, has found that the metro Dalton area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, has a cost of living well below the national average.

Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, said this is good news for the community’s efforts to bring in new business.

“Once a company has settled on a region, there’s a list of things that have to be in place. Good roads, adequate water, good school systems. They expect those,” Anderson said. “Then there are other variables that can distinguish one location from another. The cost of living, including taxes, is definitely one of those factors. Now we can tell a client that we not only have some of the lowest tax rates in our state, we also have the other side of the cost comparison.”

The council’s cost of living index considers six components: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. The Dalton metro area scored a 91.9, 8 points below the average of the 307 metro areas surveyed by the group.

Some Dalton residents said last week they were surprised the area has one of the nation’s lowest costs of living.

“I don’t know. It seems that prices are going up every day. I heard that gasoline has never been as expensive at this time of year as it is right now,” said Dalton resident John Burke.

But the index scores for many of the nation’s major metro areas make Dalton’s score look puny. Washington, D.C., for instance, scored 150.9, and the Manhattan borough of New York City scored a whopping 229.6.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said the city’s low cost of living is just another example of how competitive it can be with other areas.

“Obviously, Dalton has some great things to attract people to live here. We are on I-75. We have a great school system, a great college. We have the lowest utility rates, which is reflected in that survey, and tremendous recreation assets. Couple that with a low cost of living and we should be able to sell our community to people and show them why they need to be living in and starting businesses in Dalton,” he said.