It is a commercial center of south Georgia with numerous manufacturing plants. The surrounding area produces tobacco, turpentine, pine lumber, and pulpwood. Moody Air Force Base is located nearby, and transportation is provided mainly by Interstate 75.
Valdosta is also the home of Valdosta State University (VSU), founded in 1906 as South Georgia State Normal College for Women. It became part of the University System of Georgia in 1950. Valdosta Technical Institute is also located in the city.
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Valdosta was founded in 1860 by residents of Troupville, Georgia. Troupville was a steamboat landing on the Withlacoochee River, but when the Gulf and Atlantic Railroad was built four miles (about 6km) away, the inhabitants simply picked up the town and moved it to the railroad. There are still buildings in Valdosta that made the move.
The now virtually abandoned Troupville had been named after Governor George Troup, for whom Troup County, Georgia was also named. Valdosta was named after Troup's estate, Val d'Osta, which itself was named after the Val d'Osta valley in Italy.
The world's second Coca-Cola bottling plant is in Valdosta.
It is located in the coastal plain of Georgia and thus has a virtually flat landscape. Highways stretch for miles with hardly a curve, rise, or fall. The 60 miles (97km) of railway between Valdosta and Waycross was once the longest straight stretch of railroad in the world.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 78.4 km² (30.3 mi²). 77.5 km² (29.9 mi²) of it is land and 0.9 km² (0.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.09% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 43,724 people, 16,692 households, and 10,232 families residing in the city. The population density is 563.9/km² (1,460.3/mi²). There are 18,907 housing units at an average density of 243.8/km² (631.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 47.71% White, 48.49% African American, 0.23% Native American, 1.40% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.90% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. 2.18% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 16,692 households out of which 30.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% are married couples living together, 19.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% are non-families. 28.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.50 and the average family size is 3.13.
In the city the population is spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 18.4% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 86.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 81.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $29,046, and the median income for a family is $38,174. Males have a median income of $27,281 versus $20,807 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,472. 24.7% of the population and 18.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 32.1% are under the age of 18 and 18.9% are 65 or older.