Friday, Oct. 29, 2021
Tifton, Georgia
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GrapeNew
TIFT JOBLESS RATE AT RECORD 2% BUT LABOR FORCE DROPS
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
In September, Tift County once again hit a new record low in its unemployment rate of 2% for the month, the Ga. Department of Labor (DOL) reported Thursday.

The county’s August jobless rate was the previous record low of 2.6%.

A primary factor for the low unemployment rate is a smaller labor force. Tift's labor force in September was 21,065, nearly 300 below where it was before the pandemic, according to DOL statistics.

The labor force is considered to be residents aged 16 and older who are employed or seeking employment. Statewide, the labor force is down 37,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said that Georgia has "almost twice the number of available jobs than we have people currently looking for employment. This is the main factor affecting job growth as employers across the state continue to struggle to fill vacant positions."

It is a problem nationwide. The federal government reports that the U.S. labor force is at its lowest level in four decades with a record number of unfilled jobs. Where have all the workers gone?

Economists around the nation say there are several reasons for this dilemma: Enhanced federal unemployment benefits, reduced availability of child care, worries about COVID-19 – all of which may be temporary – as well as longer-term economic shifts, such as a shrinking population of workers as more Baby Boomers retire and technologies that are making some jobs redundant.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the U.S. working-age population declined in 2019 for the first time in decades, then again in 2020. Baby Boomer retirements more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year, says the Pew Research Center. “Early retirements are one reason companies are having trouble finding qualified workers," Businessweek reported.

Economists also say that economic downturns often accelerate changes in the workplace. The National Bureau of Economic Research said that 88% of the “routine,” or easily automated, jobs lost in the U.S. since the 1980s have disappeared within 12 months of an economic slump.
TIFTON WILL GET 'MERRY ON MAIN ST.'
CELEBRATION, CHRISTMAS PARADE DEC. 4
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Tifton's Hometown Holiday Christmas Celebration, a popular downtown festival for more than two decades that fell victim to the pandemic last year, is morphing this year into a somewhat different event.

Downtown Tifton's "Merry on Main Street" celebration on Saturday, Dec. 4, will take the place of the holiday festival this year.

"Opting for a new seasonal celebration that will be held in Downtown Tifton, we are excited to bring 'Merry on Main Street' this year. This has not been a normal year for many reasons, and once again, our organization and committee were faced with adapting and somehow figuring out how to march on," said Abbey McLaren, Downtown Development Authority director.

"This year’s Christmas event will offer free arts and craft activities for kids, a vendor pop-up market, and food trucks. On this day, the merchants will also be hosting their Christmas open house."

The children's craft activities are scheduled from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in Tifton Gardens. The all-day "Merry on Main Street" event is punctuated by the annual Tifton Christmas Parade at 5 p.m. This year's parade theme is "Candyland Christmas."

The parade route will begin on the corner of Second Street and Magnolia Drive. The parade will travel east toward downtown, take a left on Main Street and travel north, disbanding at the corner of Eighth Street and Love Avenue.

To register for the parade, Click Here!

"We are also in search of market vendors with specialty handmade items and art that would be perfect for Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers," McLaren said. "To register as a vendor, please call the Downtown Tifton office at 229-391-3966."

The lighting of the Tifton Christmas tree will occur during the "First Friday" downtown event on Dec. 3
ABAC's DAVID BRIDGES TO RENEW FOCUS ON AIDING GA's RURAL COMMUNITIES
By BONNIE SAYLES
Tifton Grapevine
After serving 16 years as the longest serving president in Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College's history, Dr. David Bridges is looking forward to retirement soon -- not to spend it in relaxing pursuits or in farming, his ultimate dream.

Rather, he told the Tifton Rotary Club on Wednesday, his renewed focus will be developing opportunities in Georgia’s rural communities.

Always on his bucket list has been to “do something to reinvigorate, restore rural communities across this state,” Bridges said.

“I will devote myself full time for the next couple years to running the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation,” he said. “We have a charter to work statewide.” 

Bridges said as ABAC president he works in every county of the state almost every year. “It breaks my heart to go through some of these small communities and see what has happened to them.” 

He discussed how fortunate Tift County is, with a transportation crossroads, a good school system, three higher educational institutions, an excellent medical system – “there’s a lot to be proud of. But there’s some real despair in rural Georgia.

“We have about 110 or 115 counties that have been in consistent population decline since 1920,” Bridges said. “One county had a 49% population decline from 2010 in the 2020 census. Four others had 25 or more percent decline.

“The depopulation of rural Georgia presents a real problem for this state. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time where the only activities that occurred in a county were agriculture and forestry.”

Bridges said rural Georgia needs a net importation of people. With young folks graduating high school and moving out, and death rates exceeding birth rates, he said, we must make it more attractive to young child-bearing people to come into these rural areas. 

To make it more attractive, there must be a way for them to make a decent living, must have exceptional educational opportunities for their kids, and must provide access to primary health care. “You’ve got to fix all three of them,” he said.
 
To illustrate the disparities among the urban, suburban, and rural counties in Georgia, Bridges described a scenario: Among the state's 159 counties, if the 12 metro Atlanta counties were a state of their own, it would be the third-highest ranked in educational attainment in the nation behind Massachusetts and Maine. 

Likewise, if the rest of the 147 counties were a state of their own, it would be third from the bottom in educational attainment behind West Virginia and Mississippi. “That’s just unacceptable,” Bridges said. 

“If you want to correct some of the ills in rural Georgia, I would encourage you to continue to do the things you need to do to build the strength of this area,” Bridges said. “Reach out to the surrounding counties and see what you can do to strengthen rural communities.” 
TIFT SEES 11 CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASES, 3 DEATHS IN PAST WEEK, DPH SAYS
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County has reported 11 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three related deaths during the past week, according to data Thursday from the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH).

During the past two weeks, Tift County recorded 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 41 total cases when rapid Antigen positive cases are added, the DPH said.

Tift County’s confirmed cases in the past two weeks represent 51 cases per 100,000 population, and 100 cases with Antigen positives. Tift's testing positivity rate for the virus was 5% during the two-week period, the DPH reported.

There have been a total of 4,857 confirmed cases and 135 deaths in Tift since the pandemic began, according to DPH data.

On Thursday, the DPH reported 1,148 new confirmed cases within 24 hours in Georgia, along with 497 new Antigen cases, 71 additional related deaths, and 188 new hospitalizations. The state has recorded a total of 1,262,856 cases with 24,673 deaths, the DPH reported.

According to DPH data, as of Thursday afternoon, 39% of eligible Tift countians were fully vaccinated against the virus, while statewide the number was 50%.
ELECTION DAY ON TUESDAY
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
and BONNIE SAYLES
Tifton Grapevine
Election Day is Tuesday in Tift County. Voters will cast ballots in their home precincts between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.

Early voting ends at 5 p.m. today (Friday) at the Tift County Board of Elections Office in Building B at 222 Chesnutt Ave. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, 530 residents had voted, according to election officials.

The local ballots include two Tifton City Council seats, a special election on whether to allow package sales of liquor in the city, and a countywide referendum on renewing the one-cent E-SPLOST for local education.

The ballot is different for voters depending upon where they live. Registered voters in City Council districts 1 and 3 will decide their city representatives, and all voters within the city will decide if Tifton should issue licenses for the packaged sale of distilled spirits

All voters in Tift County, including the cities of Tifton, Omega, and Ty Ty, will vote on renewing the one-cent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) for capital improvements in the school system.

Only one candidate, newcomer Denny “Josh" Reynolds, is running for the District 1 seat on Tifton City Council currently held by Vice Mayor Wes Ehlers, who is not seeking re-election.

For the District 4 seat on City Council, Sherrod Thompson and Lester L. Cromer Jr. are seeking the post currently held by Johnny Terrell, who is seeking re-election as a write-in candidate. Terrell has served three terms on council, including one as vice mayor.

Thompson, originally from Fitzgerald, is executive director of Team Fearless, a nonprofit organization designed to help the needy and encourage youth in the community. He spent more than four years in the U.S. Army and six years in the National Guard Reserve.

Cromer is a realtor and entrepreneur. He is chief executive officer of Souled Out House, a dance music record label; and of Freez Worx, an Atlanta-based record label. He is a military veteran with eight years of service.

The ballot referendum renewing the one-cent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) for capital improvements in the school system was a topic at Thursday's monthly Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

School Superintendent Adam Hathaway said that renewing the E-SPLOST could bring in up to $70 million during the next five years. About 60% of the SPLOST tax income comes from people who live outside Tift County, Hathaway said. 

The funds are limited to capital projects, technology and transportation. Hathaway said the school system has 80 buses and 54 routes. “We spend $125,000 per bus. SPLOST funds allow us to keep our fleet updated.”

He said the current income from SPLOST is about $900,000 a month. “That is a testament to the business you’ve been doing here in Tift County,” Hathaway told the Chamber.
TRICK OR TREAT, TIFTON!
Hundreds of ghosts, witches, princesses, super heroes – even dinosaurs – went trick-or-treating at Downtown Tifton merchants Thursday.

The City of Tifton has not set specified times for trick-or-treating through neighborhoods on Sunday, leaving it to individual discretion.
KINGDOM CENTER HOLDS 'PRAISE IN PARK' SATURDAY AT FULWOOD PARK
Kingdom Center of South Georgia is presenting an event, “Praise in the Park,” at 4-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at Fulwood Park

The event features live music, free food, skits, and prizes.

“It is designed to have something for everyone,” said Michelle Spearman with Kingdom Center. “There’s a lot of diversity in this community. We love Jesus and want to tell everyone about Jesus. He wants you to come as you are.”
 
The non-demonational Kingdom Center is currently meeting at 10 a.m. Sundays at Hilton Garden Inn. They have recently started converting the former Cooper Tire building on U.S. Highway 41 S. into an outreach center

Co-leaders of the congregation are Casey Spearman and Dr. Langston Cleveland.
COLQUITT EMC AWARDS BRIGHT IDEAS GRANTS TO TWO TIFT COUNTY TEACHERS
Joselyn Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Annie Belle Clark Elementary School, and Melissa Busbin, a business and computer science teacher at Tift County High, recently received Colquitt Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) Bright Ideas grants.

“One of Tift County's main goals is for all the students to be on grade level in reading by third grade,” Johnson said. “Being a second-grade teacher, I feel it is my duty to promote reading starting in my classroom. In order to do that, I must first engage my students.” 

Johnson’s winning literacy project is entitled “Read with Me” and includes a “Starbooks Reading Café,” a comfortable reading space for her students to develop reading skills, such as fluency and comprehension. With the grant money, Johnson purchased a reading rug, new books for her classroom library, and headphones for each student to help with the school’s online literacy program.
Busbin’s winning project is entitled “Phidgets Computer Science.” Phidgets are programmable USB sensors. 

Phidgets are great for introducing computer science concepts to students. We can use these to code sensors without soldering resistors and wires. While learning those skills are great, we wanted to be able to introduce hands-on coding skills earlier in the process to help keep students interested and engaged,” she said.

Several sensors she ordered with her grant can be used for tracking the temperature or controlling a remote-controlled car.

Colquitt EMC sponsors the Bright Ideas grants to support teachers with funding to put their creative ideas into action. Funding comes from the cooperative’s unclaimed capital credit fund. This year, Colquitt EMC awarded more than $17,750 to teachers across its service territory.
ASHBURN, FITZGERALD TO GET
GA COMMUNITIES ARTS GRANTS
The Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Arts Council and the Ashburn Downtown Development Authority are being awarded Vibrant Communities Grants by the Georgia Council for the Arts, a division of the Ga. Department of Economic Development.

The Vibrant Communities Grant supports a variety of arts programming opportunities. Fitzgerald's and Ashburn's grants are among 67 entities in the state that will receive a total of $600,000 in funding as part of the Vibrant Communities and Cultural Facilities grant awards for fiscal year 2022.

“The arts are the soul of who we are as Georgians and play a significant role in the strength of our economy and vitality of our communities. They contribute to our rich culture and our thriving economy, providing opportunities and experiences along with thousands of jobs,” said Commissioner Pat Wilson of the Department of Economic Development.

The Georgia Council for the Arts had received 96 applications from schools, libraries, cities, historical societies, community theatres, Boys & Girls Clubs, and arts and other related organizations from across the state. 

Arts events supported by Vibrant Communities grants will help jump-start tourism and bring communities together in all parts of the state,” said Georgia Council for the Arts Director Tina Lilly.
MORE THAN 130 ATTEND TIFT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE JOB FAIR
More than 130 job seekers attended the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce's second job fair of the year on Tuesday at the Tifton County Recreation Department.

"A lot of them walked away excited about taking the next step in the interview process," the Chamber of Commerce said.
TIFTON
2012 Pineview Ave., Tifton, Ga 31793
ABAC CONCERT CHOIR PERFORMS NOV. 9 IN HOWARD AUDITORIUM
The Concert Choir at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will be featured in its annual fall concert at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in Howard Auditorium.

The performance will include the “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Sorida,” “To Sit and Dream,” “Unforgettable,” “Where Dwells the Soul of My Love,” “Still I Rise,” “Arise, Beloved!” and the ABAC Alma Mater.

The Concert Choir consists of 25 members. From the Concert Choir, an auditioned group, the Chamber Singers, is drawn. The Jazz Choir is an additional auditioned group. The Concert Choir includes ABAC students from throughout Georgia and the United States.

Dr. Susan Roe, head of ABACs fine arts department, will be conductor for the performance, and the accompanist will be Dr. Jennifer Huang, assistant professor of piano and music theory.

The event is free and open to the public. For information, call 229-391-4945.
ORGILL MARKS 25 YEARS IN TIFTON
Orgill, the world’s largest independently owned hardlines distributor, celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Tifton distribution center last week.

The Tifton operation was Orgill's first distribution center outside of its hometown of Memphis. When it opened, the Tifton facility measured 330,000 square feet and brought several hundred jobs to the Tifton community.

As Orgill grew from a regional distributor to a company that now services retail customers in all 50 states, Canada and throughout the world, the Tifton distribution center grew along with it. In 2003, Orgill doubled the size of the facility and made significant
investments to improve the logistics systems inside the warehouse, which handles thousands of products flowing through it during any given week.

Today, the facility measures 660,000 square feet and is one of eight distribution centers Orgill operates.

“A lot has changed since I first started here 25 years ago,” says Mike Newbern, who serves as facility manager for the Tifton facility and is one of about two dozen employees who have been with the company since it first opened in Tifton.

“When I started here, I was picking orders in the warehouse, and we did so many things manually that now are automated,” Newbern says. “We used to write things down using paper and a pen, and now we are using scanners and voice-picking headsets. The technology has just come so far that it allows us to be very efficient.”
WARNOCK GUEST SPEAKER FOR 113th ANNIVERSARY OF SOUTH TIFTON CHURCH
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., will be the speaker for the observance of the 113th anniversary of Everette Temple CME Church on Ridge Avenue in Tifton.

The virtual celebration is scheduled at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. The program may be viewed on the church’s website, everettetemplecme.com or on YouTube at the Everette Temple CME page here.

Warnock has served since 2005 as the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Everette Temple CME Church was founded in South Tifton in 1908. It was named in honor of the Rev. T.A. Everette of Albany, who, according to church history, was the founder and first minister of the church.

The CME Church has sustained two major fires in its history, causing the church to relocate around South Tifton. Its current location came about following a devastating fire in September 1985.
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YOUR GUIDE TO ACTIVITIES THIS WEEKEND IN THE TIFTAREA

Sunday, Oct. 31 is, of course, Halloween, but it’s also National Caramel Apple Day. According to legend, caramel apples were invented in the early 1950s when a Kraft foods employee decided to melt a batch of leftover caramel candies and coat apples in them. But "red candied apples" have actually been around much longer, first appearing on a stick in 1908.
FRIDAY, OCT. 29
  • Unleashed Escape Room, 5 p.m., Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Community Trunk or Treat, 5:30-8 p.m., 807 N. Carver St., Ocilla
  • Tift County High Blue Devils football @ Colquitt County High Packers, 7:30 p.m., Moultrie
  • Tiftarea Academy Panthers football vs. Southland Academy Raiders, 7:30 p.m., Chula

SATURDAY, OCT. 30
  • ABAC Run for the Nurses, 6:30 a.m registration; 8 a.m. race, Ag Science Building, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton
  • Worth County Sheriff's Office Charity Golf Tournament, 8 a.m., Pineknoll Country Club, Sylvester
  • Wiregrass Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-Noon, Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Trick or Treat in the Village, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Kingdom Center of South Georgia's Praise in the Park, 4-7:30 p.m., Fulwood Park, Tifton
  • Union Church Trunk or Treat, 5:30-7 p.m., Friendly City Park, E.B. Hamilton Complex, Tifton

SUNDAY, OCT. 31
  • Trunk or Treat, 6-8 p.m., St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Tifton
  • Trunk or Treat, 7-9 p.m., Tifton Mall parking lot, Tifton
TIFTON GRAPEVINE'S DOG OF THE WEEK
“Holt," a male pooch, is the longest resident at the Tift County Animal Shelter. He is very friendly to humans, but is a tad picky with his doggy friends. Holt is available for adoption. If you're interested in adopting Holt and providing him a good home, visit the Tift County Animal Shelter on Highway 125 South between 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055  
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OCTOBER 21
Dollie Bernice Dowdy McSwain, 88, Tifton
Annis Faye Marchant McMillian, 67, Tifton
Paul Bryan Dunn, 92, Fitzgerald
Sylvia Jane Bowen Desormeaux, 74, Tifton
Alice Harper Register, 84, Fitzgerald
Sandra D. Tull, 77, St. Simons Island, formerly of Ashburn

OCTOBER 22
Ronald Terry Bryan, 64, Chula
Belle Smith Rountree, 94, Adel
Louie Vernon Barnes, 77, Tifton
Erie Kelley Archer Chambliss, 90, Tifton
Charles Anthony "Tony" Spradley Sr., 72, Augusta, formerly of Tifton
Connie L. Ferguson, 64, Ocilla
William Bennett “Bill” Roberts Jr., 79, Ashburn
Wayne C. Kilgore, 76, Athens, formerly of Tifton
Emma Nell Brown, 83, Sparks

OCTOBER 23
Lt. Col. James "Jim" Willkomm, 93, Tifton
Virginia Taylor Cottle, 83, Tifton
Shirley Mae Helms Marchant Cook, 83, Tifton
George Jackson Moore, 91, Nashville
Joseph E. “Joe” Brown Jr., 80, Decatur, formerly of Fitzgerald

OCTOBER 24
Lorenzo "Lencho" Mendoza, 58, Tifton
Simona Gomez Duque, 56, Tifton
Mary Branch Nelson, 78, Tifton
Miranda Mitchell Helms, 42, Fitzgerald
Patricia Dawson, Atlanta, formerly of Ashburn
Nancy Sue Oliver Meders, 65, Omega

OCTOBER 25
Tina Parker Bennett, 61, Nashville
Betty Ann Parker Baker, 78, West Berrien Community
Marcus “Mark” McDonald, 57, Alapaha
OCTOBER 26
Annette Pittman, 83, Adel

OCTOBER 27
Eugene "Gene" Garnto, 92, Gibson, formerly of Worth County
Tina Chantell Stonecypher, 56, Nashville
Gloria Blanch Thomas, 86, Ashburn

OCTOBER 28
Memzie Holmes, 83, Ashburn
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Tifton Grapevine
e-published every Tuesday and Friday

Frank Sayles Jr.
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Bonnie Sayles
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