Lee County- The state of Georgia expected to gain more than 3 million additional residents over the next 25 years, but some counties are already feeling their own growing pains.
Hundreds of houses are being built Lee County each year. Now, county officials say they need more businesses to move into the area. By 2030, the state of Georgia is expected to have a population of more than 12 million people. That would move Georgia from 10th to the nation's 8th most populous state.
But more people means more infrastructure and development. It's a balance that's already a dilemma for one of South Georgia's fastest growing counties. In the past 10 to 15 years the landscape of Lee County has changed dramatically. There are more homes and businesses being built than ever before.
But while new construction is a welcome change for economic developers, there are still a lot of growing pains that come with it.
Two years ago workers wouldn't have been laying sod in any yards because the Wooded Acres subdivision didn't exist. "Last year we issued permits for nearly 500 site build single family homes, and that's not counting any manufactured homes or any of the multi-family units that got built," says County Administrator Langford Holbrook.
Lee County has more than 28,000 residents and is gaining between 700 and 1,000 additional people each year, and there are lots for sale all over the county. "You just have a little more elbow room up here," said Holbrook.
County officials say they're banking on the businesses to follow all the families that are heading to the area. "We are really trying to encourage some commercial growth because that is a good way to increase your tax base because business doesn't use all that much service, so they're kind of taxpayer and not tax users in that sense," says Winston Oxford of the Chamber of Commerce.
The county's first industrial park, Oakland Meadows, already has one occupant and two more that aren't too far behind. "It's good to have industrial investment in the community because that helps add to your tax base and hold the taxes down on the residential," says Oxford.
But infrastructure setbacks could stunt the growth of more industry in Lee County. "If we had sewer everywhere in the community that we have water we would even have more explosive commercial growth," Oxford says.
Economic Development Officials say Lee County's millage rate is still about 25% lower than Dougherty County's, but it may increase soon. "Any time you have the explosive residential growth that we've had, you have to increase your government services and that costs money," adds Oxford.
Overall the officials say growth in Lee County is good, but if they can continue to expand infrastructure and court more businesses it will be even better. Oxford says he believes more businesses would move to Lee County if the future of Albany's Marine Corp Logistics Base weren't up in the air. If MCLB escapes base closure and realignment, Oxford says both Lee and Dougherty Counties will see explosive growth.
Development officials also expect residential growth in Lee county to thrive because there is still a lot of undeveloped land. They say only 30 of its 350 square miles have been built on.