Will Davis

How fast is Monroe County growing?

The census bureau said recently that Monroe County’s population surged by 3 percent, over 700 people, in just 12 months in 2020-21, the latest numbers available. That pushes us ahead of long-time competitor Jones County. Monroe County’s population rose to 28,712 on July 1, 2021, according to the latest U.S. census estimate. The same estimate said Jones County has a population of 28,400. So Monroe has now officially passed Jones in population, according to the census.

I remember when I first moved to Monroe County in 2007 being envious of Jones County. They seemed to be growing more and certainly had more businesses than we did. I always figured that being on I-75 with a quick drive to Macon hurt our ability to grow our business community. And Jones had long had more residents. But now, that, and time, have cured me of my Jones County envy. I mean I’ll take I-75 over Gray Highway any day. What a cess pool of traffic and crime it has become.

But Jones County also provides a word of caution for us. County commissioners there slapped a moratorium on new homes several years ago. They’re pretty restrictive about growth. And now it seems they are getting left behind economically. 

We’ve reported that a big-time manufacturing company was considering bringing a big-time plant to Monroe County this spring. There was talk of 1,000 jobs. But homeowners in the western part of Monroe County mounted a fierce resistance and may have killed its prospects.

“I’ve never been more disappointed in Monroe County,” one county official who was working on the deal told me.

There’s a lot of talk among the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) crowd about preventing Monroe County from turning into Henry County. Well I have good news. It’s not gonna happen. As a former Monroe County building inspector told me, as long as the county doesn’t have a sewer system, new home lots must be at least 1 acre. The problem with Henry County is too many people in too small of an area. Henry County’s infrastructure allowed small lot subdivisions and apartments. The city of Forsyth has some water and sewer capacity. But not much. And Monroe County has no sewer. As long as that’s the case, we will not become Henry County.

The bigger worry for me is the likely loss of $11+ million per year in property and sales taxes when and if Plant Scherer gets shutdown by the communists currently running our country and media. They hate capitalism and progress, so they want to kill coal plants. They’re insane. Environmentalists are like watermelons: green on the outside, but commie red on the inside. Yet we allegedly elected them. So here we are. 

Recent protests scared off the potential manufacturing plant that would have been a huge help in replacing Plant Scherer. Hopefully the failure has taught county leaders they have a solemn duty that is critical to our county’s future. We did a story a year ago about how Putnam County prepared for the loss of its coal plant, Plant Branch. County leaders there told us they were able to cushion the blow by doing two big things, a) saving money and b) growing. But the message out of West Main Street (county administration) lately has been a) spend money and b) stop growth.

It is time for county leaders to make the case in every setting for industrial growth in Monroe County. People need to know how much their taxes will be going up if we don’t replace Plant Scherer. Speak at civic clubs. Talk to your neighbors. Submit guest columns to (wince here, Mr. Chairman) this newspaper. 

County officials should work with their zoning board and development authority members to lay a ground floor of support for new jobs and industries. You can’t build a successful community of just bedrooms. If everyone is commuting to work, fewer and fewer people will know one another. You see, everyone here says they want us to be Mayberry. And so do I. Do you notice that the people of Mayberry all had jobs in Mayberry? What kind of show would it have been if Andy, Barney and Aunt Bea got up early every day and drove 90 minutes on I-75 to work in a big-city high rise. Then they got home at dark just to crawl in bed? Not much of a community huh? “The Andy Griffith Show”, the best TV show of all time, would have been cancelled after one show. 

It’s said that the late county commissioner Jim Ham sometimes remarked that Monroe County without Plant Scherer was Hancock County. That’s Sparta. It’s one of Georgia’s poorest counties, with some of the highest property tax rates. Maybe instead of worrying about becoming Henry County, we should worry about becoming that.