Everything Isn’t Awful

This week’s Courier Herald column:

2020 has presented unique challenges that most of us wouldn’t have dreamed of a year ago.  We’ve added social unrest and a pandemic to an election year, and forced a shutdown of much of the economy in the process. 

It’s not surprising that much of the news these days is depressing.  If it bleeds, it leads.  If it scares, it airs. 

We compound negative news coverage by sharing all of the bad news with our friends on social media.  It seems the default position for humanity is to complain first, with reason and praise being much farther down the priority list.

While we’ve all been focused on the negatives which have been served lately in abundance, a lot of us have probably missed the good news doled out over the past few weeks.  These items deserve attention in their own right, but when viewed together, demonstrate that the underpinnings of the state’s economy remain strong despite the myriad of unusual challenges we are all currently facing.

First up, the state’s tax revenues remain strong.  July’s tax revenues were up 17% year over year, and August’s tax revenues were up 7% from one year ago. 

It may seem strange to celebrate that the state is taking more money from us during tough times than it did a year ago when things were relatively peachy, but the tax receipts are a sign that much of the economic activity we missed in March and April was delayed but not lost.  While some areas of the economy will remain challenged for some time – especially travel and hospitality – other areas continue to perform well. 

There’s also much better news in Georgia’s employment picture.  Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in August, which is significantly below the national average of 8.4%.  Georgia’s unemployment rate peaked at 12.6% in April when much of the state was shut down in order to “flatten the curve” of those seeking medical care. 

While we’re not at the historic low unemployment rates of 3.1% Georgia was enjoying as recently as February, we’ve only added a net 2.5% of Georgians to unemployment rolls after an unprecedented effort to turn the economy off and back on again.  This indicates that additional relief efforts can be more specifically targeted as the state continues to recover.

Economic Development efforts did not rest during the pandemic shutdowns.  Several new job creating projects have been announced in the last few weeks.

Papa John’s is moving its global headquarters from Louisville Kentucky to Metro Atlanta. The company will bring 200 managerial jobs to the state, and also bring another publicly traded corporate entity to call Georgia home.

Over the summer, Metro Atlanta also saw the new locations or expansions from Zillow Group, establishing a Southeast HQ for the real estate services firm. Millitech systems is moving 465 technology jobs to Fulton County.  Deluxe will bring 700 new FinTech jobs to a new Atlanta innovation center.

Henry County is going big into sleep, with Purple innovation will construct a $21 Million mattress factory in Henry County to create 360 jobs. Competitor Zinus will invest $108 Million to create 804 jobs. 

Bang Energy will invest $145 Million to bring 600 new jobs to Lithia Springs to bottle sports drinks.  Home Depot and General Mills will be adding to existing Metro Atlanta operations adding over 1,000 additional jobs.  HelloFresh is locating its first Southeast US facility in Newnan, creating 750 jobs.

The success stories are not limited to Metro Atlanta.  SK Innovation is increasing its investment in a Jackson County battery factory by almost $1 Billion.  Wellmade Flooring is expanding operations in Bartow County with a $35 Million investment. CFL Flooring is investing $700 Million to create 300 jobs in Gordon County.

Frito Lay is investing $200 Million in its Houston County operations to create 120 jobs.  Paerosol Global Partners will create 120 jobs making disinfectant solutions in Bainbridge, currently seeing a high demand.  German Auto Parts maker GEDIA will locate its first US manufacturing facility in Whitfield County, creating 200 jobs.

In the middle of all of those announcements, Georgia had time to receive another “Top State For Doing Business” award.  It’s the seventh consecutive year the state has received the honor.

So yes, there’s a lot of serious matters facing us in the news every day.  There’s also a lot of things in Georgia that are going well, and are too often overlooked.  Proper perspective requires careful digestion of both.

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