Well, the Anniston/Oxford area continues to slide into a deep and dark black hole. And these few things I am going to talk about today will show you why this area continues to be in trouble. And let’s face it, it will take years to get this metro area to turn around for the better. First off, let’s talk about this new study from the website New Geography. It took all 380 metro areas in America and ranked them according to people with at least a bachelor’s degree from 2000 through 2013. The study also ranked the metro areas by giving greater weight to the percentage point increase in the share of the population that is college-educated over that span, and they factored in the share of educated people in the population in 2013. Let’s start with the top metro area in Alabama, and it’s no surprise. Auburn/Opelika was ranked number 4 in the study.
But, the Anniston/Oxford/Jacksonville area was ranked number 378, or the third worst metro area in America. In 2013, the study said the metro area had 15% of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree. But the interesting part, from 2000-2013, the metro area only saw an increase of 4.6% of people with at least a bachelor’s degree. So, in 2000 we only had around 10% of people with at least a bachelor’s degree. While it’s somewhat better, we have a long way to go to have an educated workforce necessary to bring in good paying jobs to the Anniston/Oxford metro area.
Heck, I know of many people who have graduated from Jacksonville State University, and have left the Anniston/Oxford area because there are hardly any jobs here. This metro area has seen thousands of people, from all educational backgrounds, leave this metro area because the jobs are few and far between. Even Forbes ranked this metro area as the 5th worst small metro area in America for the cost of business, job growth, and education. When the mayor of Anniston celebrated this very bad ranking, it just made me shake my head.
So, when are people around here going to get their heads out of the sand, and actually do something to turn the economy around? When leaders around here say eco-tourism will save the day, they forget to say this. Other towns with great eco-tourism like Bend, Oregon and Duluth, Minnesota, not only has a good eco-tourism system like mountain bike trails, and bike lanes, they also have a diverse economy, with plenty of good paying jobs. Here in Anniston/Oxford, we are losing many of the good paying jobs, and only replacing them with low paying retail and fast-food jobs. This is no way to sustain a metro area. And unless things change, things will only get worse. But wait, there’s more!
The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce sent out a e-mail, including me, asking their members to donate money to them to help reduce their building debt. They say other chambers in the southeast have done this, but this has got me thinking. If the economy here in Anniston/Oxford was doing better, would the chamber have to be asking for donations? I mean, if this metro area was not losing thousands of jobs, and seeing thousands of people move away, and seeing many small businesses struggle and close, would the chamber be having to ask for money? Here’s what I think, the chamber is the latest victim of the business problems here in Calhoun County. And they need a little help. How about getting out there and recruiting new good paying jobs into this area?
One more thing, the Milken Institute will soon release their 2014 best cities report. In 2013, Anniston/Oxford was ranked the second worst small metro area in America. For 2014, I don’t expect much changes. This metro area needs new political leaders and business leaders to make some dramatic changes. I am for expanding cycling, but just relying on that will fail this metro area. People needs money to spend to have the opportunity to go cycling, or spend money at local businesses. If you don’t go out and recruit new good paying jobs, you might as well turn off the lights and throw away the key, because it’s over, and Anniston/Oxford will never come back.
Need some help on how to turn the Anniston/Oxford metro area around? You need to take a look at my presentation below!