Local officials dispute a recent report that Walton County has one of the largest wage gaps in the nation.
MSN recently released an article claiming that Walton County had the ninth largest wage gap in the country. They supported that statement with data taken form the Economic Policy Institute that stated, on average, the top 1 percent of families in the U.S. earn 26.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.
Walton County has a top-to-bottom ratio of 68.5, meaning the top 1 percent of families in Walton County earned 68.5 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.
However, Megan Harrison, president and CEO of Walton Area Chamber of Commerce, didn’t agree with the EPI’s statistics because they weren’t clear on whether or not the data represented the population’s gross incomes or wages only.
Harrison was more focused on a skills gap between the citizens of Walton County and said the Chamber of Commerce is working to provide programming at local colleges and technical schools to bridge the gap.
DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell said he believed Walton is on the verge of an economic boom and that many jobs will be brought to the northern end of the county within the next five years as more industries move to the area.
Campbell's main focus isn't strictly catering to industries, but creating new businesses that draw people in from their trips to the beach and give them fun experiences in areas other than the southern end of the county. He said that keeping the historic aspects of a town are important, but that it's also important to capitalize on the unique attractions of a community, like Lake DeFuniak.
"You kind of always have to keep moving to see what your niche is because you don't do something because it's popular somewhere else, you've got to find out what fits here (DeFuniak Springs)," Campbell said. "... We have this big, beautiful, round lake right in the middle of our city and very little people take advantage of it."
Harrison said Walton is the second fastest growing county in the state – sixth in the country—and that the people in charge of the community are making an effort to showcase its potential.
“People just have to continue to adopt the ‘we are open for business mindset,'" Harrison said. "They have to be on board with the right kind of change that will support economic growth in not only Walton County but the region as a whole.”