For years I’ve held the that the lyrics to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” may have been the most wonderful ever written. For the most part I still do, but as I reflected on some of those lines while I was wide awake at 4 a.m., I see the dilemma Rome finds itself in.
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
coming home to a place he’d never been before
The thrill of going someplace new, seeing land that hasn’t been scarred by man warms my soul. That’s one of the reasons I love going to Alaska, the Yukon or the Canadian Maritimes. There are often vast expanses of land ruled only by the flora and fauna.
I’m not sure we realize just how large and magnificent this orb we live on is. For all the hustle and bustle that is Rome on Friday evening at 5 p.m. — or all those other times when traffic is such a hassle — it pales in comparison to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tokyo or Mumbai.
Yet there are wide expanses on this planet where man has never left a footprint.
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more,
more people, more scars upon the land
I don’t consider myself a tree hugging environmentalist, but I do love this little corner of the world that we call home. When I do get some time off, I love to ride up into the Cohuttas. If I don’t have that much time, a simple trip up to The Pocket and Keown Falls often revs my psychological engine.
Particularly at this time of year. A trip into the mountains when the rhododendron and mountain laurel are blooming refreshes my soul in ways not much else can.
Congress was wise years ago when they enacted legislation to give people tax breaks for conserving land, protecting it from development.
To be completely straight with you, I do believe conservation easements have been abused by people using them strictly as a tax break and not for the original intention of saving some of the last, best and beautiful places from prolific urbanization.
All of that to say this.
Leadership in our community has bemoaned our lack of growth for years. We’re going to get those 2020 Census numbers soon and my guess is that they will still be concerned about our rate of growth.
Growth is inevitable. What we have witnessed, probably since the mid 1970s, is what one now semi-retired local leader has frequently referred to as manageable growth.
Back in the mid ’50s, Rome experienced a boom when Georgia Kraft, General Electric and Georgia Power Plant Hammond all showed up. Garden Lakes became Rome’s bedroom community.
Half a century later, the Big Four all showed up, Pirelli, Suzuki, Neaton and F&P Georgia.
But times were different. Yes, the Big Four brought jobs, but a lot of what they do falls into the category of advanced manufacturing. That’s a buzzword for automation and robotics. There was no real need for another Garden Lakes to develop.
Now Rome’s leadership is clamoring for new industry. They, yes, even we, want to land that Big Fish that is going to bring several hundreds of jobs. Like that controversial auto battery plant in Northeast Georgia.
While at the same time, the community is also facing a serious housing shortage. If a company came to Rome with 500 new jobs, there unquestionably would be some folks moving to Rome.
That’s been a chicken and egg problem locally. Must we build more housing before we are able to attract more industry, or do we snag that Big Fish and hope housing follows along behind rapidly.
Smith-Douglas, one of the nation’s largest private homebuilders, has a couple of projects in the works for Rome. At least two of them are entirely new, one in North Rome, another off Eden Valley Road.
I’ve heard from the industrial recruiters locally that industries like to come to growing communities. I have no idea what has kept Rome from landing any new Big Fish, so to say.
The folks who have been hauled in seem to like it here.
Lowe’s has done well and has far exceeded the promises it made relative to hiring.
Ball Corp. is going great guns. They’ve expanded the existing facility, added an all new aluminum beverage cup plant and just recently announced plans for a huge new warehouse.
International Paper has made massive investments in technological upgrades to its facility in Coosa and added some additional jobs along the way.
Integrated Fiber Solutions out in West Rome is adding additional production capacity.
Summit Hill Foods, formerly Southeastern Mills, has continued remarkable growth in our community.
Once folks get here, Rome seems to grow on them, and they grow in Rome. Maybe manageable growth is not such a bad thing.
As long as we’re showing growth, I think it would send a positive message to potential new employers that Rome and Floyd County have got their act together.
Rome has a lot going for it.
We can: walk(s) in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams.
We can: understand the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.
They’re a lot friendlier than the concrete and asphalt jungles of urban America.