Georgia’s Record Breaking Economic Year A Result Of Planning And Focus

This week’s Courier Herald column:

This should come as no surprise, but I didn’t win the recent $1.3 billion Mega Millions lottery jackpot.  Neither did you unless you’re holding a ticket bought in Des Plains, Illinois at the end of July.

That’s Ok.  While it’s fun to dream, it’s better to plan.  Most of our plans won’t get us to a billion-dollar payday, but a well thought out plan that is worked and revised over multiple years will lead to economic progress and long term prosperity.  That’s the realistic way to prepare for the future, both for us and what we’re going to leave for the next generation.

It is from this mindset that I reviewed the notes from Governor Kemp’s press conference touting Georgia’s economic development successes over the past year.  What a year it was, with records set for both capital investment and jobs created in the Peach State.

A few large projects overshadowed the depth and breadth of the magnitude of Georgia’s recruitment efforts.  Rivian and Hyundai captured most of the headlines, but those grand slams were backed up by many singles, doubles, and triples as Georgia’s Department of Economic Development put points on the scoreboard.

358 new projects represent investments of $21.2 Billion and 51,132 new jobs.  To help put these numbers into perspective, the number of jobs created represents about 5% of Georgia’s total population.

This success didn’t happen overnight, or even just in the last year. Workforce development, which was pioneered as a retention tool to keep TYSYS in Columbus under Governor Zell Miller and added as a training tool to lure Kia Motors to nearby West Point by Governor Perdue, was expanded by Governor Deal to high demand career categories in Georgia’s Technical College System.  This allowed Georgia to present a trained, skilled, and ready workforce to growing business, large and small, that wanted to relocate or expand in the state.

With a better matched workforce to employers’ needs, Georgia needed sites to pitch to prospective companies.  The GRAD certification program was developed to showcase sites that were “Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development”, with due-diligence completed for industrial projects in order to ensure rapid construction and operation once a deal is struck.  Georgia’s ability to market large mega-sites were key to the recruitment of both automotive manufacturing plants.

Another focus under Governor Kemp has been the focus on ensuring that rural Georgia was included in the success.  In the past year, 85% of investments and 30,000 of the jobs created have been outside the 10-county Metro Atlanta area.   It’s been a statewide success story.

What Georgia hasn’t done, contrary to critics of Georgia’s efforts, is outbid other states with cash.  Georgia’s incentive formula remains relatively straightforward.  We offer a ready trained workforce, with the ability to tailor training to match an employer’s needs. 

The majority of incentives are tax abatements, structured so that governments get more revenue than if no project was built, but significantly less over the initial years of operation than if the real estate were taxed at market value.  Most additional sweeteners offered are for site development costs and infrastructure needed to get utilities and logistics maximized for the operation while minimizing the stress added to local roads.

Georgia remains a destination for international commerce.  Foreign Direct investment totaled $8 billion last year, with South Korea, Germany, Japan, France, and The Netherlands all represented with new or expanded operations in the state.

The success was much deeper than Georgia’s rapidly growing automotive manufacturer and supplier footprint.  The FinTech industry continued to expand with $32 million in additional investments and 1,250 new jobs created, while the bioscience industry saw a 147% increase in job creation.

It was a great year, but also a snapshot of the execution of a strategic plan that has been targeted, focused, and always focused on what the state and its prospective employers need right now.  As many parts of the country are just now asking themselves how to move their economy forward exiting the pandemic, Georgia is celebrating a record breaking year…while already making new announcements for next year’s totals.

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