COVINGTON — More than half of Newton County's work force commutes to out-of-town jobs, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The American Community Survey states that 56.1 percent of Newton County residents work outside the county. That's higher than both the state and national averages. The percentage of Georgia workers who work outside their county of residence is 38.2 percent, while at the national level, it's 41.9 percent.
Newton County residents also have a higher mean travel time to work, at 32.3 minutes. The mean travel time for workers across the state is 25.1 minutes, and it's 26.9 minutes across the nation. The survey uses data from 2009.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan said she has long been aware that the majority of Newton County is commuting to work. The county does not have enough jobs to support its population, she said, which is why she, Covington Mayor Kim Carter and the Chamber of Commerce have been working to try to keep any expansion of existing industries local, as well as recruit other companies that use local industries' products. The Chamber is also working to bring a director of economic development to solicit more business to the area, she said.
Also, the 2050 Build Out Plan addresses the commuter issue by calling for several community nodes throughout the county, Morgan said. The Almon overlay has already been approved with a community center planned, work is starting on a Salem overlay and there is a possibility of another one in the Oak Hill area. Oak Hill already has the beginnings of a community center, with the new library, Denny Dobbs Park, the fire station and elementary school, she said.
Morgan said 49 percent of the county's population lives in Covington and west of the city.
"We're hoping by creating these character communities, people on the west side will have a sense of community characteristic of the neighborhood they live in and a feeling of belonging, that hometown feel we have in downtown Covington. When someone's been gone 11 hours because they commute to work, they don't want to drive another 20 miles further after they get home to enjoy that," she said.
The Census Bureau survey indicates that 42.6 percent of Newton County's work force works inside the county, while 1.3 percent work outside the state.
The highest percentage of commuters, 17.7 percent, travel 60 minutes or more to work. About 8 percent travel less than 10 minutes; 9.5 percent travel 10 to 14 minutes; 15.2 percent travel 15 to 19 minutes; 13.9 percent travel 20 to 24 minutes; 5.8 percent travel 25 to 29 minutes; 12.1 percent travel 30 to 34 minutes; 6.1 percent travel 35 to 44 minutes; and 11.6 percent travel 45 to 59 minutes.
More than 26 percent of workers leave for work at 9 a.m. or after. Nearly 90 percent use a car, truck or van to commute, and more than 80 percent drive alone, while 9.4 percent carpool and 6 percent work at home. The survey reports that 1.6 percent use public transportation; 1.5 percent walk; 1.1 percent use a taxi, motorcycle or other means; and .1 percent ride a bicycle.
The American Community Survey is based on responses collected over the course of the 2009 calendar year and covers more than 40 topics, including income, educational attainment, housing and family structure for all geographies with populations of 65,000 or more.