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Liberty ranked No. 5 in economic study
Q&A with Ron Tolley, executive director of the Liberty County Development Authority
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A Pittsburgh economic consulting firm recently ranked Liberty County the No. 5 mid-sized county in the U.S., because it and the other counties on the list “represent regions that are poised to achieve sustainable economic growth while attracting people and investment,” a press release said.

Those words from Fourth Economy Consulting are likely music to the ears of Ron Tolley, executive director of the Liberty County Development Authority.

“It says that we have done a lot of things well in adapting to the local economy,” Tolley said in an email. “We have planned, established partnerships, developed product, and marketed successfully to recruit companies to Liberty County.  Once having attracted them here, we have stayed engaged with them to help them retain and expand their operations.”

Donald Lovette, chairman of the Liberty County Commission, said the ranking “validates the collaborative efforts of the Authority, County Commission, and each city and community partner that has worked hard over the years to position Liberty County as a leader in industrial development.”

He added, “I look forward to the continued success of our industrial partners as the Liberty County Development Authority grows with Liberty County and Coastal Georgia.”

Fourth Economy based its ranking on information gathered from the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, Housing and Urban Development and others, according to the press release.  

Liberty, with a population of more than 62,000, was ranked along with counties having populations between 50,000 and 149,999.

Christian County, Kentucky, was ranked No. 1, followed by Riley County, Kansas; Harrisonburg County, Virginia; Curry County, New Mexico; Liberty County; Eagle County, Colorado; Vernon Paris, Louisiana; Story County, Iowa; Roanoke County, Virginia and Cascade County, Montana.

A Q&A with Tolley:

Q: Has local philosophy toward development been consistent, and what is that philosphy?  

A: The Liberty County Development Authority’s philosophy has been to plan where we want to go, establish partnerships to go there together, develop “product” such as parks and buildings and human resources that are sustainable, and then professionally market the availability of those items to companies seeking new locations.  That philosophy has remained steady.  Our three-word tag line incorporated into our logo has been and remains consistent, and will hopefully continue into the foreseeable future:  Come Grow Globally!

As a student of economics, I believe that economic development basically comes down to effectively facilitating on a sustainable basis the quantity and quality of the factors of production present in our community:  land, labor, capital, entrepreneurship, and, more recently, knowledge.

When you add onto those factors the love of seeing people attain a job to help support themselves and their families, economic development can become a long-term joy that should be celebrated by all.  It has its moments, but overall it is well worth the time and effort.

Q: What does the ranking mean in terms of future development?

A: When a third-party, unbiased research group, such as Fourth Economy Consulting in Pittsburgh, analyzes 19 distinct data sets assembled by federal and state agencies and determines that your county ranks 5th in the nation among counties it’s size, that is a validation that your county has done well and has the capability of continuing to do well in the future.  Hence the references to “sustained economic growth.”   

Articles about the study and references to Liberty County have already appeared and been noticed by economic developers and their allies. Liberty County’s ranking based on talent, investment, sustainability, place, and diversity will provide increased awareness of our community and its success.  We will certainly add it to our marketing efforts and updates we provide to site selectors and state project managers.

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