Feature Story: Georgia Governor’s Report – Georgia’s High-Powered Growth Engine

By Jack Rogers
from the July/August 2015 Issue

Gov. Nathan Deal

From foreign investment to surging film production and expanding water resources, Gov. Nathan Deal is making sure that Georgia is building a foundation for sustainable growth.

Gov. Nathan Deal has been a very busy state chief exec in recent days. One minute he’s signing into law a $21.8-billion state budget loaded with economic development initiatives, the next he’s heading down to Brazil to lead a trade mission, adding to Georgia’s impressive haul of foreign direct investment from a growing list of trade partners.

In the midst of this high-powered activity, Gov. Deal sat down with Business Facilities to give us an inside look at the burgeoning success story in the Peach State and his ongoing efforts to put in place a solid foundation for sustainable growth.


Gov. Deal recently returned from a trade mission to Brazil. We asked him if he expect to this visit to result in more Georgia exports to South America and an influx of Brazilian businesses opening new facilities or expanding in Georgia.

“Brazil is an excellent international market for us and our economic development efforts,” Deal told BF. “This mission was an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and an opportunity to lay the foundation for future business ventures. Our Georgia delegation included business, tourism, trade, education and workforce representatives.

During the mission to Brazil, Gov. Deal announced Stefanini, a leading global IT service provider based in São Paulo, is creating 400 jobs by the end of 2016 through an expansion of its Atlanta office.

“I’m confident that Georgia’s highly skilled workforce and thriving technology cluster will create the ideal environment for future growth for Stefanini and many others in Georgia,” Deal said.

In June, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a $21.8-billion state budget that includes several economic development-oriented initiatives, including increased funding for transportation infrastructure and funds for the Georgia Film Academy.

The governor cited several strengths that make the Peach State and attractive venue for foreign direct investment, including: Georgia’s pro-business climate, world-class infrastructure, accessible resources and a talented workforce, which provides an ideal business environment for international companies who are looking to relocate or expand.

“Our state has had an exceptional year in economic development because of our solid partnerships with thriving international markets and the intelligence and support we receive from our 11 international representatives located around the globe,” Deal said, adding that the state’s representatives in Germany and Japan have been highly successful in attracting headquarter relocations, automotive industry business and other international investment.

For example, U.K.-based software producer Sage is setting up its North American headquarters and an innovation hub in Atlanta. Gov. Deal told BF this is part of a growing trend.


Since the beginning of 2015, there has been a surge of companies announcing new technology and R&D centers in metro Atlanta. The world’s top global brands are choosing Georgia to take their corporate innovation and technology growth to the next level.

“These examples demonstrate that our state’s thriving technology scene is at the forefront of the minds of global business leaders who are looking to remain competitive and grow their business in the U.S.,” Deal said.

Georgia has established itself as an emerging automotive powerhouse with Kia’s assembly plant and a growing Tier 1 supplier network. BF asked the governor if he expects other major automotive OEMs to follow Kia into state.

“The automotive industry, from headquarter operations to major automotive suppliers’ manufacturing operations, is an important part of Georgia’s economy,” Deal said. He noted that the automotive sector in GA grew more than 35 percent from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014.

This year, Mercedes-Benz USA and the North American headquarters of Porsche joined the growing list of automotive heavyweights and more than 200 automotive suppliers migrating into the state.

“One of the key factors for the growth of our automotive industry is Georgia’s proximity and direct access to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers in surrounding states,” Deal noted. “Germany, Japan and Korea continue to play a pivotal role in Georgia’s automotive success story.”

The availability of a skilled workforce has become a top priority in economic development, with several states staying ahead of the curve by offering dual-credit tech programs at the high school level to steer graduates into STEM-oriented Tech School or Community College programs geared to advanced manufacturing. Gov. Deal launched a High Demand Career Initiative with similar goals.

“The High Demand Career Initiative is not a one-time event. It is designed to be a sustained effort to create a long-term infrastructure of communication and partnerships to meet Georgia’s workforce needs,” Deal explained.

The governor cited several key elements of the program that have been put in place since the initiative was launched early in 2014, including:

  • Georgia Department of Economic Development hired full-time staff member to manage HDCI efforts.
  • Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant (SIWDG) was expanded.
  • HDCI Workforce Assessment (http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/workforce-division/hdci-assessment/) was implemented.
  • The Georgia Department of Economic Development, in partnership with all state agencies that play a role in workforce development and education, worked to establish the Career Pathways Partnership.
  • Georgia approved included computer programming as a path to satisfy core requirements in high schools.
  • The state expanded the Go Build Georgia program, which promotes skilled trade opportunities to high school students across state
  • The University System of Georgia (USG) established a new Cybersecurity Initiative
  • The Georgia Film Academy opened to train a skilled workforce for positions in GA’s booming film industry.

“A well-trained and reliable workforce is essential to our economic development successes in Georgia and we are being proactive in our efforts to ensure this,” Gov. Deal told BF.

With a severe drought afflicting nearly a third of U.S. states water resources have suddenly emerged as a hot-button issue. We asked the governor if Georgia has put in place a statewide water resources plan or has chosen to have the development of water infrastructure be driven by regional planning groups.

“I have dealt with this issue firsthand for many years, even before I became governor. I was the point person on water in Georgia’s congressional delegation, so I was firmly grounded in the issue when I took this office,” Deal said. “That’s why one of my first acts as governor was to put aside $300 million to help us increase supply from both surface water and groundwater sources so that our state would have the storage capacity to meet its needs for the next 50 years. I think building water security for the state has been a major accomplishment of my administration.”

The governor conceded that no state has the power to stop droughts, but he emphasized that Georgia is prepared to mitigate the damage these parched times can cause.

“We’ve taken significant steps to prepare for storage and we’ve made tremendous progress on water conservation,” Deal told us. “I also want to grow the cistern so that we can store excess water in times of plenty for use in times of scarcity. While we’re seeing multi-year historic droughts, we’re also seeing historically wet years as well. With foresight, planning and the development of adequate supply, we can manage through the droughts with storage of excess water from the wet years. This will in turn help us meet upstream and downstream needs both for Georgia and its downstream neighbors.”

Georgia has had tremendous success developing its film production sector, with 11 leading film and TV studios setting up shop in the state. The Georgia Film Academy is proactively working to meet the workforce needs of this thriving industry, Deal told BF.

“I think we can all enjoy the heightened amount of Hollywood sightings here in Georgia and more importantly its economic impact. I am confident that the Georgia Film Academy will keep pace with this thriving industry,” Deal said. “My confidence is reinforced by joint efforts like [last summer’s] High Demand Career Initiative meeting at Georgia State University in Atlanta, which led to the creation of the Georgia Film Academy. It was an opportunity to hear from companies about their workforce needs in terms of film productions and interactive entertainment.

Representatives from Marvel Studios, NBC, Universal Pictures, Pinewood Atlanta, Floyd County Productions, Atlanta Media Campus, EUE/Screen Gems, Turner, Weather Channel, Trick3D and Bento Box attended this summit meeting at GSU (representatives from Teamsters Local 728 and IATSE Local 429 also were in attendance].

Georgia’s film industry is experiencing exponential growth, with 11 leading film and TV studios setting up shop in the state, including the new Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, pictured above.

“What we learned from this meeting is that much of the workforce needs required training and special certification,” Deal told us. “The academy solidifies our commitment to growing this industry and to developing a film-ready workforce to meet the needs of the productions coming to Georgia. The Technical College System of Georgia, University System and the film industry are working together to form the program.

East Coast ports are gearing up to greet a surge of shipping when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed next year. Gov. Deal assured BF that the Port of Savannah will be ready to service huge Post-Panamax container vessels when the new locks in the Panama Canal open for business.

“Absolutely!“ Deal declared. “In March, the Georgia Ports Authority welcomed the largest ship ever to call on the Port of Savannah when the super Post-Panamax vessel—ZIM Tianjin—docked at Garden City Terminal. The deepening of the Port of Savannah, Georgia’s No. 1 economic development project, will allow us to better accommodate these large vessels. We’ve already started work on that.