By Maria Saporta
MACON – While not indicative of the whole state, people attending the Georgia Forward Forum in Macon had significant consensus in a pre-conference survey.
Laura Meadows, associate director of the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, presented the findings during a Wednesday morning session of the all-day forum.
Asked what were the top issues facing their local communities, the No. 1 response was jobs, followed by education and the lack of public transit. All those issues were mentioned by more than 60 percent of the 139 people who responded to the survey. Those 139 people represented communities from around the state, but the majority of them were from metro Atlanta.
The response of the question on what were the biggest challenges that Georgia will face in the next 10 years (compared to just their local communities), the survey’s top response was education — mentioned by nearly 70 percent.
Interestingly enough, the second most important challenge in the survey was the lack of public transit and passenger rail (46 percent). The other two issues in the top four were: water equity (42 percent) and access to jobs (40 percent).
So what are Georgia’s greatest strengths?
The survey’s top answer was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — highlighted by 67 percent of those who responded. The Atlanta region came in second with 60 percent saying that was our state’s greatest strength. Coming in third was Georgia’s natural environment, mentioned by more than 40 percent of those surveyed.
Other assets mentioned were agriculture, the people of Georgia and the Port of Savannah. The two topics that ranked lowest in the listing of Georgia’s greatest strengths were: leaders and transit.
It appeared that the people who are part of the Georgia Forward initiative (including civic, academic, business and government) are hungry to help build consensus around the state.
Asked whether they thought a meeting like the forum was important and should be held annually, 95 percent answered yes. And asked what was needed to make the day a success, peoples said “engagement on all sides and at least some consensus of something,” Meadows said.