Community grows as Ft. Stewart expands - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Community grows as Ft. Stewart expands

^ Billy Poole ^ Billy Poole
^ Mayor Tom Ratcliffe ^ Mayor Tom Ratcliffe

January 23, 2003

Hinesville-- Hinesville is the fastest growing city in this part of the state, primarily because of Fort Stewart. The base pumps $2 billion into Georgia's economy every year.

Hinesville economy is dependant on the base, and the people here certainly support their troops.

Poole's Hot Deli is a popular Hinesville lunch spot, that’s been ringing up sales for years. "I've really been in the food business in Hinesville since '73," said restaurant owner Billy Poole.

It's the kind of place where the servers know the regulars by name. "What else for you today Mr, Miller?" asks a server.

And many of those regulars are soldiers or civilians connected to Fort Stewart. "My business really depends a great deal on the base," said Billy.

Poole has seen Hinesville's population increase almost 600% in 30 years, largely because of the base. "Fort Stewart is our number one industry."

And when thousands of troops ship out at once, as they did during the Gulf War, many businesses suffer. Billy's business probably fell off 40%. But during these latest deployments, the foot traffic has stayed steady. "Our business is holding good."

The city's mayor says that's because Hinesville has grown so much so fast, the economy isn't totally dependent the base. "Today, the population of Hinesville is a little north of 30,000. We are now one of the 15 urban centers in Georgia, so that in 1990 our census was a little north of 20,000 " said Mayor Tom Ratcliffe.

But back at Poole's, they're still hurting from the deployments, if not economically, emotionally. "I hate to see these boys go over there cause I know If we do go to war, a lot of them are not gonna come back," said Billy.

Hopefully, all of them will come back. And you know there'll be a good hot meal at Poole's to welcome them home.

posted at 5:15PM by dave.miller@walb.com