By Anne Cosgrove
From the May/June 2022 Issue
Georgia is experiencing one of the most prosperous times in the state’s history. Over the last two years, economic development performance in Georgia has been very strong—and not showing signs of slowing down. Among other assets of the state, an innovative and collaborative spirit makes Georgia highly competitive.
The state has broken records for job creation and investments in 2021 and 2022 through economic development projects. In the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022, the state created more jobs and investments than the record set last year. As Governor Brian P. Kemp states: “Georgia is leading in the Great Recovery because it’s stayed open for business to protect both lives and livelihoods.” Business Facilities spoke with Gov. Kemp to ask about the latest for businesses in Georgia.
BF: What factors are contributing to Georgia’s success?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Georgia’s connectivity allows businesses located here access to almost any market in the world through our ports, airport, rails, and highways. We also have one of the best workforces in the country, and our No. 1 workforce training program that we’ve perfected over the last 50 years, Quick Start, is the model other states try to emulate. By investing in what already makes Georgia a great place to do business and constantly innovating to meet business needs, it’s clear why companies consistently see a partner in the State of Georgia. We also prioritize staying competitive through smart investments.
The Georgia Ports Authority’s long-term projects, such as the deepening the Port of Savannah and expanding container storage facilities will help Georgia exporters move goods overseas and bring in needed raw materials. As of February, Georgia’s ports saw 19 consecutive months of record-breaking growth. And, more than $500 million has been set aside for additional port expansions.
Georgia boasts a robust network of highways, rail lines, and ways to access major airports. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest and most efficient airport in the world for moving people and goods. As the logistics hub of the Southeast with a highly skilled workforce and a dedication to addressing supply chain issues, Georgia is unbeatable for logistics and distribution centers. Ryder Systems and Serena & Lily recently chose Georgia for these exact reasons.
BF: How is Georgia encouraging companies to choose rural Georgia?
BK: The ports have hugely impacted many rural communities by attracting new opportunities, but the importance of training a skilled workforce cannot be overlooked. I have made it a priority to bring jobs to rural Georgia, and ensuring companies are greeted by a ready, trained workforce is just as important as connecting those companies to markets. The Technical System of Georgia works closely with companies to fill positions from machine operators to on-site technicians.
Local communities have been working with the state to make sure they have the land and resources big projects need. This can mean developing ready-to-build GRAD sites and working with local providers to ensure they have the power, water, and even internet resources they need.
Georgia was one of the first to invest in broadband mapping, and our efforts set the bar for other federal and state programs. Those maps have helped inform public-private partnerships led by the state that are bringing broadband to more communities in South Georgia.
BF: What are target industries for Georgia currently?
BK: The automotive industry is growing nonstop, and we are excited to be a leader in the electric vehicle market with recent projects like Rivian’s carbon-conscious manufacturing facility and campus east of Atlanta. This project is the result of many years of hard work. Starting in 2018 with SK Innovation’s choice to make batteries in northeast Georgia’s Jackson County, the state has continued to attract a growing number of companies and suppliers in the electric vehicle industry, including Duckyang, Enchem Ltd, TEKLAS, GEDIA, and more.
Advanced manufacturing is another important industry. Norma Precision Ammunition just announced its decision to move its North American headquarters here. Our ports, highly-skilled workforce, and pro-2nd Amendment environment made Georgia a top choice for the company.
Georgia’s deeply rooted agribusiness industry also continues to grow. As every Georgian knows, peanuts are one of our top exports. Last November, I had the joy of announcing that the Georgia-based American Peanut Growers Group was expanding in southwest Georgia’s Seminole County. The grower-owned group produces approximately 200,000 tons of peanuts per year, and it’s a great example of a business combining Georgia’s natural resources like its moderate climate and good land with our infrastructure, like the Port of Savannah, to create a global good.
High-tech vertical farming company Bowrey Farming recently chose Henry County for their first Georgia facility. Based on our resources, university research, and future-focused lens, we’ve built a supportive ecosystem for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) companies. CEA conserves land and water, reduces pesticides, and increases crop yields. Encouraging sustainable farming is important, and we look forward to welcoming more companies like Bowrey Farming to the Peach State.
It makes sense that with our thriving agriculture industry, food processing companies are drawn to the state. PepsiCo has chosen to repeatedly invest in Georgia because our local partners work hard to listen to needs and find a solution. That could be using Quick Start for personalized training, working with utility partners to get facilities what they need, or finding a site certified and ready for development. Likewise, Jack Link’s chose middle Georgia’s Houston County to build its largest facility, with a $450 million investment at a site that was prepared in advance for a speedy build-out to meet the company’s speed-to-market needs.
Thanks to diversity of talent, Atlanta is a major tech hub, and we have dedicated programs that work with the university system and companies to get students real-world training in information security and fintech careers. These assets have attracted not only tech companies like Microsoft and Google, but also led Airbnb, TeamViewer, Visa, and Deluxe to announce new hubs for innovation. We’re excited to see more startups and tech companies of all sizes choose Georgia for expansions. Lower cost of business, vibrant communities and quality of life, and pro-business attitude help seal the deal.
BF: What are key issues facing business development in the state?
BK: Retaining the talent provided by Georgia’s 85 accredited public and private universities is a priority. In addition to top-ranking public universities like the University of Georgia, Tech Square also provides access to top talent in the metro Atlanta area including institutions like Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Emory University, and the Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCUs) found within Atlanta’s University Center. That’s why we’re focused on creating jobs of the future and making Georgia a great place to live in Atlanta and beyond.
Across the state, in rural and urban communities alike, local and state government are working together to make sure more sites are available for quality development and meeting speed-to-market needs. We’ve also put a priority on developing additional affordable housing.
We’re also focused on ensuring our veterans have a great quality of life and can contribute their skills to the workforce. Georgia has the fifth-largest military population in the country, with 700,000 former service members and over 101,000 military retirees currently residing here, and these men and women carry the strong values, selfless service, and loyalty instilled by their military service wherever they go. Companies know this too. I recently signed multiple bills into law to encourage even more veterans and their families to stay in Georgia.
BF: What does the future hold?
BK: I firmly believe Georgia is the best state to do business; we are looking forward to another amazing year. During the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022, Georgia has nearly doubled the jobs and investment totals from economic development projects from the same timeframe in the prior year. Our pro-business environment, talented workforce, and advanced infrastructure provide everything businesses need to succeed.