Rep. Pruitt Ready To Advocate for Rural Development
District 149 Representative Robert Pruitt, R-Eastman, is eager to get back to work on
his top priority of rural economic development as the Georgia Legislature reconvenes on January 10.
As a member of the House’s House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, Industry and Labor Committee and Small Business Development Committee, Pruitt has his eye on infrastructure and broadband upgrades that he knows are critical framework for attracting and sustaining business in rural areas of the state. The Dodge County entrepreneur, who has extensive experience in initiating and maintaining a corporation, appreciates what it takes to be successful in this realm.
Pruitt is closely following the progress of the Governor’s Rural Strike Team, which has been tasked with assessing and addressing economic development needs in South Georgia. “I am very interested in seeing what they come back with after the surveys they have conducted.”
The creation of a strike team focused specifically on bringing economic development to all corners of the continued from page
state is promising news for counties below the fall line. Georgia is hailed as the top state in the nation for attracting new business, but so far the lion’s share of this business, for obvious reasons, has been located in metro-Atlanta and in the northern part of the state.
Area leaders want to make sure the Strike Team really affords Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler counties a chance to compete with counties that have more infrastructure and financial backing.
Following Governor Kemp’s December 17 announcement about electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian coming to Georgia, Pruitt said he expects lawmakers and the public will be hearing a lot more about the promising future of building electric vehicles in this state. Rivian Inc. will invest $5 billion in a carbonconscious campus in Georgia for its electric adventure vehicles. Across operations, Rivian plans to create approximately 7,500 jobs on just under 2,000 acres in Morgan and Walton counties, known as the East Atlanta Megasite. Once manufacturing operations are fully ramped up, the Georgia facility should be capable of producing up to 400,000 vehicles per year. Rivian’s manufacturing plant represents the single-largest economic development in the state’s history. The governor also cited the Electric Mobility and Innovation Alliance, an initiative he launched last summer aimed at strengthening Georgia’s status as a leader in the electric mobility industry. 'The fact is, we did not get here by accident,' Kemp said. 'We knew Georgia could land a project like Rivian; we just had to find the right fit.'
Additionally, Governor Kemp highlighted Georgia's unemployment rate dropping for the 19th straight month to 2.8 percent for November 2021, an all-time low, and an all-time high number of Georgians employed. Kemp said the Rivian plant is an outgrowth of work the state’s political and business leaders have been doing for years to make Georgia a leader in the automotive industry.
That track record goes back to the huge auto plant Kia built near LaGrange in 2006 and, more recently, two electric vehicle battery plants South Korea’s SK Innovation built in Jackson County. “Building out the EV supply chain puts the state on the forefront of a highgrowth industry and opens an array of economic development opportunities for the state and the region. We are so proud that Georgia will now be home to Rivian's largest manufacturing facility,' Kemp said. 'This single investment, the largest in state history, represents the future of automotive manufacturing and establishes the leading role the Peach State will play in this booming industry for generations to come.”
While the top half of the state has been booming, Pruitt wants to focus more attention below the fall line. He said he plans to advocate for economic incentives in areas that are not considered tier one industrial prospects, such as metro Atlanta. “I would like to see us give blanket incentives to companies to move back into rural Georgia, especially supply chain companies.” He referenced the changes in technology that make it possible for businesses to anchor outside of traditional business meccas. “These supply chain businesses have been based in rural Georgia in the past, and I would love to see them come back. Part of the framework is rural broadband internet. We need to see that continue to improve.”
He referenced 2021’s Public Service Commission- backed gas line starting in Wheeler County and networking to serve a multicounty area in South Georgia as an important catalyst for economic development. “We need to do the same with broadband internet. Laying those types of elements is a great foundation for the future. It’s very encouraging.”
Among the issues Pruitt expects to see legislators confront in the 2022 session is the controversial topic of legalizing gambling. “I’m against it. I don’t think it is something that is needed. For eight years in a row Georgia has been named the number one state in the nation in which to do business. We have a $3.7 billion surplus. It is hard to justify how gambling will help us.” He added, “There is so much social responsibility with issues like this. I think there are a lot more negatives than positives, but I do think there will be pressure applied to get bills introduced.”
Pruitt said most of the counties within District 149 are also actively working on county and school board redistricting after the 2020 census, and he will be introducing legislation related to this effort.
Following the Special Session on Redistricting in November, Pruitt’s District 149 will look very different come 2023 when the boundaries officially change. Currently, Pruitt represents an area stretching across Wheeler, Dodge, Jeff Davis, Telfair and Laurens counties.
In 2023, the District will include a portion of Telfair, as well as Dodge, Bleckley, Twiggs and Wilkinson counties. “The footprint has gotten massive, although the number of constituents has remained the same,” Pruitt said of the new District. In the new year, Pruitt is challenged with serving constituents in his old District, courting voters in the new District, and campaigning for re-election in 2022.
Serving and campaigning in Districts that are undergoing radical change is a task facing legislators across the country this year, following redistricting which occurs every 10 years based on the U.S. Census. After the 2010 Census, each member represented 53,820 residents. As of the 2020 Census, Georgia state representatives will represent an average of 59,510 residents.
In 2023, the three counties in The Advance’s area of coverage—Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler— will be included within the same House and Senate Districts. Representative Leesa Hagan, R-Vidalia, if reelected to her District 156 seat in 2022, will be representing some of Pruitt’s former District 149.
Pruitt assumed office on January 11, 2021. His current term ends on January 9, 2023. He earned a bachelor's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His career experience includes working as the vice president of business development of Dynamic Software Solutions.