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Hinesville listed among economic hubs
Mayor said $45,000 median income changing perception
Jim Thomas082012
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said he believes the report will change how people think of Hinesville. - photo by File photo

The Georgia Municipal Association recently named Hinesville among 13 cities considered major economic hub cities outside metropolitan Atlanta, according to Mayor Jim Thomas.
He said “hub cities” serve as anchors for a network of urbanized areas. Each hub city is the economic hub for its particular region of Georgia. Hinesville was selected by the GMA along with Savannah, which has nearly four times Hinesville’s population, and Brunswick, which has less than half the population of Hinesville.
Thomas said the city has worked with the GMA for years. In fact, during the city’s recent planning workshop, GMA representative Eileen Thomas presented Hinesville with two checks — $6,000 for a public-safety grant and $5,519 for a liability grant.
“The (GMA’s) Hub Cities Initiative is a whole new organization,” Thomas said.
“It’s not Hinesville touting itself; it’s facts from the Census Bureau. These facts reflect what I’ve been saying for years, but for developers to see those figures from the Census Bureau, it proves what we’ve known for years.”
Thomas said many developers in the past have looked at Hinesville and seen the city as a military community only. He said they wrongly thought they would not be able to compete with Fort Stewart’s Main Post Exchange and commissary. He emphasized, though, that nearly three-quarters of Fort Stewart’s soldiers live off-post, most of them in Hinesville and Liberty County or just past the Long County line. Tens of thousands of people surrounding Hinesville come here for shopping, dining and entertainment, he said.
Thomas said he believes the city’s median household income of $45,233 is a key factor that will change the perception a lot of developers have had about Hinesville. He noted that Hinesville’s population of 33,425 does not include the population of Fort Stewart, but the income of its military-connected residents — active duty, retirees, Army civilians and contractors — is reflected in the median household income.
Hinesville’s Metropolitan Statistic Area, which includes all Liberty County communities and parts of Long County, has a population of 81,144. Although Hinesville’s MSA has a slightly lower median household income than the city, Thomas said it still is competitive with much larger metropolitan areas, including Savannah.  
“Our MSA size stops that perception that we’re a small community,” he said.
Thomas said another of Hinesville’s key features is education, which is not mentioned in the Hub Cities Initiative, but he thinks it’s important because of the opportunities education affords the next generation. He commended Liberty County schools for their academic achievements and especially praised the Liberty County College and Career Academy.
“I’ve seen more joy in the faces of those students than in any school I’ve ever visited,” Thomas said. “Those kids really love what they’re doing there. ... If you are a well-trained craftsman, you have a skill that’ll last you a lifetime.”
He also noted the city’s college opportunities at Savannah Technical College, which works closely with the college and career academy, and a Liberty campus for Armstrong Atlantic State University. Educational achievements and opportunities are a great asset to the whole community, he said.
Another plus for Hinesville are the poverty rates for the city and its MSA, both of which are 19 percent, according to the mayor. The poverty rate for Savannah is 26 percent; for Brunswick, it’s 34 percent.
Major employers noted by the GMA’s Hub Cities Initiative exclude government employees. That means public schools and city and county government employees are not counted, he said. For Hinesville and its MSA, the top employer is Fort Stewart. Other major employers include SNF/Chemtall, Liberty Regional Medical Center, Walmart Super Center, Target Distribution Center and Interstate Paper.
“The poverty rate (data) is a story I’ve been trying to tell for years,” Thomas said. “It changes a perception about Hinesville I’ve been fighting for years.”
The mayor said old perceptions are hard to change, noting that some people still think of Fort Stewart and Hinesville as “Camp Swamp” and “Hooterville,” respectively. He said these less-than-glamorous names were given to the base and nearby town by soldiers stationed here when Camp Stewart was established in 1940.
“By getting data from a booklet like (GMA’s Hub Cities Initiative) on our website and getting copies of the booklet to our Realtors, it’ll help change our image,” Thomas said. “It’ll help change those perceptions about Hinesville and maybe attract more developers to our area.”

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