January 30, 2014

Letter: Amenities must be offered

— Much has been made of the fact by some of Dalton’s elected officials in recent years of Dalton being at an economic disadvantage by being a short distance from a state with no income tax. Well, that’s only part of the problem.

For 60 years Chattanooga was one of America’s most industrialized cities in terms of percentage of its workforce employed in heavy manufacturing. In the late 1970s and early 1980s when America’s economy shifted from industrial to a service base there was suddenly no demand for the products made in Chattanooga. One by one, plants began shutting down, and by 1985 it was “Will the last person leaving town please turn out the lights?”

Dalton, however, wasn’t experiencing this. It was, after all, the center of carpet manufacturing in the United States and the world couldn’t get enough of the goods produced here.

My, how quickly things change! Carpet production is still in a downturn while Chattanooga is slowly but surely establishing itself as a town with a manufacturing-based economy. While being in a state with no income tax is certainly a boon, it’s a combination of many things that are driving the city’s appeal to CEOs. One is a low cost of living compared to other large cities, beautiful scenery, and a good transportation system employing a mix of interstates, secondary roads, a viable public bus system, an airport that offers room for expansion plus rail and river transportation.

There are also many venues for performing arts and free events. Dalton is reasonably good in some of these areas (like the arts) but does a pitiful job in others such as having no fixed-route bus system and no comprehensive freeway system.

What does all of this have to do with getting jobs for Dalton and Whitfield County? Actually, quite a lot. While not having a state income tax might be enough to lure some companies to Dalton (assuming Georgia phases its out), it won’t be enough by itself to lure others.

Or to put it another way, if Dalton intends to compete on a one-to-one basis with Chattanooga and/or Atlanta it’s going to have to offer some of the amenities that these cities have. And so far I haven’t seen much of a willingness on the part of our stingy, tight-fisted politicians to do that.

Charles Hyder