Originally created 03/01/05

County welcomes magazine ranking



Montene Dozier says there's just something special about her rural Columbia County community, called Winfield.

"We have a community center here, and we have suppers every so often," she said from her home on Dozier Road in northern Columbia County. "It's just a small community, and everybody knows everybody."

This month, The Progressive Farmer, a national magazine, recognized such rural elements in Columbia County, naming the county the 10th best rural place to live in the South and No. 66 in the top 100 rural places in the nation.

"When you consider there's 3,500 counties in the nation, that's pretty good," said Jack Odle, the editor in chief of The Progressive Farmer. "They can take pride in the fact that they rank that high because it's what the current residents have done already that make it that livable of a place."

Mr. Odle said this is the first year his magazine has compiled such a list on counties, noting that The Progressive Farmer's sister publication Money magazine rates cities and towns on an annual basis.

He said his magazine looked at several factors when considering which counties made the list. Columbia County, which The Progressive Farmer said has a population of 100,062 and median household income of $59,729, ranked low in crime and high in air quality, receiving all four stars possible in both categories. The county earned three of four stars in health care and two of four stars in a tax-burden category.

Lee Anderson, a Columbia County commissioner and farmer, said the designation is a welcome accolade.

"I think some of the main reasons that we rate that high is that we still have in our county rural areas where people can farm," he said. "And then one good thing is you can still live in the rural area but not be that far from the urban areas."

Mr. Anderson said the designation also could help the county in economic development.

"We can take that and put it in our rsums that we send out to industries that we'd like to see come to Columbia County," he said.

The top county in the nation, according to The Progressive Farmer, was Fauquier County, Va. The only Georgia counties to rank higher nationally than Columbia County were Oconee County, No. 2, and Forsyth County, No. 62.

One other local county also ranked in The Progressive Farmer listing. Aiken County was 80th in the Southeast but did not rank nationally.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.