Catoosa County is strategically situated in scenic northwestern Georgia along the Interstate 75 (I-75) corridor. It joins the Georgia counties of Walker and Dade as part of the Chattanooga, TN-GA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. As the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce website says: “Our proximity to Chattanooga makes us an attractive bedroom community — our borders are contiguous and our communities blend.” Catoosa County is also part of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Northwest Georgia Region. The region is comprised of 15 counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield. Catoosa is the first county travelers along I-75 encounter as they enter Georgia going south, so Catoosa has called itself the “Gateway to Georgia.” I-75 is the only interstate highway in the county. The Georgia Department of Transportation in 2009 classified 5.26 of those miles as rural, and 8.13 as urbanized.
As the Interstate highway’s miles are both rural and urban as it crosses the county from north to south, so the county itself is an eclectic mixture of urban and rural life. There are two incorporated cities in Catoosa County: Ringgold (the county seat) and Fort Oglethorpe. The city of Fort Oglethorpe, located on the western boundary of the county, includes a small portion in Walker County. The existing land use by acres in Catoosa County in 2010 showed 45.9% agricultural; 36.0% residential; 6.5% park/recreation/conservation; 4.5% transportation, communication, utilities; 3.5% commercial; 3.0% public institutional; and, 1.1% industrial. Generally, the eastern portions of Catoosa county are the more rural, with commercial development and urbanization along state route 2 (Battlefield Parkway), the exists along I-75, and U.S. 27 from the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military park northward to the Tennessee state line.
The population of Catoosa County is growing. The 2010 U.S. Census showed a population of 63,942. That was an increase of 20% from the 2000 census. Population data from 2000 – 2008 were analyzed as part of the “Catoosa County Joint Comprehensive Plan – Part I: 2011 – 2031.” They determined the growth from 2000 to 2008 was 17.9%, making Catoosa the 36th fastest growing county in the state of Georgia. The MSA grew 8.8%, and Georgia grew 18.3%. Family farms in Catoosa County were being divided and sold to developers for residential subdivisions. Of the 17.9% growth, 80% was from migration into the county. The remainder was natural growth. This growing residential population found a semi-rural atmosphere, a school system with several national schools of excellence, and various recreational opportunities. With the industrial and commercial jobs in Chattanooga or Whitfield County, Georgia, the mean travel time to work was 23 minutes. (U.S. Census, 2010)
Catoosa County is part of the Appalachians. The Appalachian Regional Commission listed Catoosa County as economically in transition between a strong and weak economy. There was one area in Catoosa that was listed as economically distressed – census tract 307 which comprised most of the city of Fort Oglethorpe and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The 2010 census showed 22.74% of the residents of the tract lived in poverty.
In the 2010 census, 6.4% of the population of Catoosa County was under five years of age (7.1% for Georgia), 24.9% were under age 18 (25.7% for Georgia), and 13.5% were 65 and older (10.7% for Georgia). Greater age differentiation was given for 2009 data and reported in http://www.georgiastats.uga.edu. For the child population, the greatest number was in the age group of 10 – 14 years old.
For individuals the age of 5+, a language other than English was spoken in the home (2005 – 2009) by 3.4% in Catoosa County, and 12.0% in Georgia. For Catoosa County adults aged 25+, from 2005 – 2009, 81.8% were high school graduates, which was close to Georgia’s 82.9%. Not as many adults in Catoosa County (16.5%), from 2005 – 2009, had a bachelor’s degee or higher as the remainder of the state (27.1%). Also from 2005 – 2009, the per capita income for the past 12 months in U.S. dollars was $22,142 in Catoosa County and $25,098 for the state. The median household income in 2009 was $43,814 for Catoosa and $47,469 for Georgia. The percent of persons below the poverty level in 2009 was 13.1 in Catoosa, and 16.6 for Georgia. (QuickFacts)
The top 10 employers in Catoosa County in 2010 according to the Georgia Department of Labor were (in alphabetical order): Bi-Lo Lic; Heritage Healthcare of Fort Oglethorpe; Hutcheson Medical Center, Inc.; Lake Winnepesaukah Amusements, Inc.; Lowes Home Centers, Inc.; NHC of Fort Oglethorpe; Northwest Georgia Bank; Propex Operating Company, Llc; Shaw Industries Group Inc.; and Wal-Mart. That does not include government agencies, state colleges, or state and local hospitals. Catoosa County residents worked in several counties including: Catoosa 26.8%; Hamilton, Tennessee 46.1%; Whitfield 14.1%; Walker 7.3%.
Catoosa County is governed by a board of commissioners that meets in Ringgold. The city of Ringgold has a mayor and council members, and the same is true for Fort Oglethorpe. There is a history of enmity between the two cities. Some older county elders point out the differences in the origins of the cities. Ringgold was a major rail terminus and relied on the area farmers who brought their products to the city for sales and distribution. Fort Oglethorpe was a military post during World War I and II, and services supporting the base and its personnel developed around it. During times of economic hardship, the rural areas seemed to suffer more than the areas around the post. That started the bad feelings between the cities. Those most recently elected to office in the cities have pledged better intergovernmental relationships.
Catoosa County is part of “Georgia’s Historic Highlands.” The Catoosa County Economic Development Authority says “Open spaces and surrounding mountains make the county an ideal setting for outdoor activities, while nearby metropolitan areas give residents access to the arts and entertainment opportunities of larger cities.” Besides the many historic sights and recreational opportunities in the county, the Colonnade serves as a community center uniting all county residents. Among meeting rooms and banquet spaces is a 536-seat theater that is used by community actors and other entertainment.