Pat Wilson Talks Georgia Economy
National Association of REALTORS ® says Atlanta is the top market to lead the nation . That ’ s good news for everybody — why does Atlanta and the South continue to outpace other regions ?
Georgia recorded two consecutive years of recordbreaking economic development in 2021 and 2022 , and Atlanta remains a top market for key industries , particularly in tech . Georgia combines a reliable , business-friendly environment with logistics assets , workforce training programs , and lower-than-average costs of living that support businesses of all sizes throughout the entirety of their operations . Georgia Quick Start , the State ’ s top-ranked workforce training program , has been working with companies to develop customized curriculums using cutting-edge techniques for more than 50 years .
Atlanta also benefits from a diverse , well-educated talent pool sought by businesses and supported by nationally ranked universities located in and around the city . The impact of this resource is easy to see in the tech and life science industries . Just last year , Georgia Tech ’ s Science Square , which aims to reproduce the success of Tech Square located in Midtown , and The Rowen Foundation ’ s 2,000-acre science and learning campus broke ground .
Atlanta is a global hub for business and travel , creating opportunities for the state as a whole . International companies that locate in Georgia often cite the availability of flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to their base countries as a reason they chose Georgia . Delta and other major airlines continue to add flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson , increasing our connectivity with markets across the world . Add in Georgia ’ s strategic system of regional airports , and the time it takes for leadership to travel to-and-from Georgia and their global locations is minimized . This asset also plays a role at the national level , but we cannot overstate the role it has in attracting international headquarters to the state .
What are the key industries that will drive economic growth in the region in 2023 ?
In the first half of fiscal year 2023 , four of Georgia ’ s largest industries – advanced manufacturing , automotive , aerospace , and food processing – accounted for nearly 75 % of new jobs and 84 % of investments . Planned investments resulting from these projects increased by more than 38 %, compared to the same time last year .
Georgia ’ s cleantech and electric mobility industries for growth are expected to continue on their current trajectories as we transition into more sustainable practices . EV-related projects have announced more than 28,000 jobs and $ 35 billion in investments since 2020 as companies fill a multitude of different roles within the ecosystem . For example , Georgia is building a closed-loop battery supply chain that not only includes Atlanta , but goes beyond the metro area ’ s perimeter , featuring manufacturers such as SK Battery America in Commerce , and FREYR in Newnan , as well as recyclers such as Aurubis in Augusta , and Ascend Elements in Covington . Solar panel manufacturer Qcells is also likely to attract suppliers as they scale-up operations at their Whitfield County facility in northwest Georgia and upcoming Bartow County location northwest of Atlanta .
What role do you see the technology sector playing in the future of the economy in Atlanta and Georgia ?
The presence of the tech industry in Atlanta supports the growth of these industries through innovation . Peachtree Corners tests smart city and electric mobility prototypes , and university research leads to new joint ventures . Companies in the fintech and traditional tech sectors provide access to business-support solutions .
An epicenter for fintech , 70 % of all U . S . transactions are handled by payment processing firms located in Georgia . The state ’ s “ Transaction Alley ” is comprised of more than 200 companies offering banking , blockchain , information security , and data analytics services – many in Atlanta . From start-ups to large corporations , companies of all sizes are drawn to Georgia ’ s diverse and tech-savvy workforce , lower cost of living , and business-friendly environment .
In addition to being home to numerous innovation centers , software engineers , computer scientists , and data scientists are in high demand across technology , fintech , digital health , and other sectors . There are currently 169,000 people in Georgia working in these technology fields , and our strong educational system provides a pipeline of diverse talent that continues to attract new companies . Both Cisco and Micron Technology cited the ability to partner with Georgia ’ s world-class universities and top engineering programs as key reasons for locating in the state , and despite market fluctuations , technology companies and adaptations will continue to grow on the whole in today ’ s world .
Atlanta also serves as a meeting point for public and private entities looking for industry partners by hosting annual summits and events .
What are the biggest opportunities for Atlanta ’ s economy to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years ?
Georgia is uniquely positioned for continued growth in key industries ; however , our future success is partially determined by our ability to overcome certain nationwide challenges . In workforce in particular , Georgia has a history of excellence , and both the state and Atlanta boast a positive migration rate . Our communities are reinforcing this trend by investing in improving the quality of life for Georgians . These investments range from supporting local arts and culture programs to installing innovative technology to better manage traffic and public transportation options .
What is the most surprising thing that people would learn about Georgia ’ s economy if they researched it ? If someone were to research Georgia , the state ’ s diverse industry mix might be the most surprising aspect they find . Past experience has taught us the importance of having a variety of industries in each community , reducing the impact of economic downturns or industry shocks on the state ’ s economy . In fact , we often work closely with communities and site selectors to meet community-set goals for balancing existing industry with emerging industry .
Nothing happens in a vacuum , and Georgia ’ s industries frequently build upon each other to create robust ecosystems . Agriculture attracts food processing , which is a significant contributor to Georgia ’ s economy . Advanced manufacturing goes hand-in-hand with key industries such as automotive , aerospace , and cleantech . Because suppliers can locate near end-product manufacturers like food processing or automotive facilities , the transportation costs and supply chain risks are reduced . Transferable skills taught in technical colleges also create a workforce that can adapt to industry changes .
What are some unique aspects of Georgia ’ s economy that people might not be aware of ?
Georgia has grown from a predominately agricultural economy to include the hightech , next-generation industries we see today , without losing our foothold on existing industries that continue to evolve as processes become more technical and efficient .
Agriculture is a great example of this blending of the old and the new . Georgia is the largest exporter of pecans in the United States , a crop that is largely produced by traditional farming techniques . At the same time , there has been a rise in the number of controlled-environment agriculture facilities locating in Georgia . These facilities use a variety of techniques to reduce water usage and their environmental impact while also allowing for crops to be grown year-round ; many of which could not be grown in Georgia otherwise .
These were intentional pursuits . Partners around the state , including the Georgia Center of Innovation , had the foresight years ago to begin working with communities to prepare their infrastructure and economic development professionals on what would become an opportunity to recruit the jobs of tomorrow .
What role do small businesses play in Georgia ’ s economy ?
According to recent numbers , small businesses make up more than 99 % of all businesses in Georgia . In 2022 , 85 % of Georgia ’ s exporters were small businesses , contributing to a record year that surpassed the previous record by nearly $ 5 billion . Many public and private entities in Georgia are helping our businesses grow and create new jobs within the state , assisting urban and rural communities in creating and enhancing local entrepreneurial ecosystems , and providing exemplary workforce training , as well as assistance with financing , research , and technical needs .
Georgia celebrates Small Business Week and recognizes a small cohort of Small Business ROCK STARS each May . These ROCK STARS have fewer than 100 full-time employees , are involved in charitable programs in their communities , and were founded in the State of Georgia . Last year ’ s winners encompassed a wide range of industries , from handmade bath and body products to surgical implants and data security .
How does international trade contribute to Georgia ’ s economy ?
Georgia became a global gateway because of consistent investment in the state ’ s logistics infrastructure and strategic relationships around the world . The Ports of Savannah and Brunswick are among the fastest-growing ports in the nation , and the Georgia Ports Authority emphasized plans for continued growth and development at the Georgia Logistics Summit hosted by the logistics professional team at the Georgia Center of Innovation in March .
Because small- to medium-sized businesses play a predominate role in Georgia ’ s exports , the state has a dedicated team of trade experts located in Atlanta and representatives in 12 strategic markets around the world to support the growth of these businesses . These teams help Georgia businesses interested in entering new markets with navigating things like unfamiliar regulatory requirements , customer service considerations , language barriers , as well as updated market trends and statistics . These efforts have paid off , and markets where Georgia maintains full-time representation accounted for 52 % of exports and 57 % of bilateral trade in 2022 .
State of Georgia International Trade by the Numbers ( 2022 )
• Total trade exceeded $ 196 billion across 221 countries and territories .
• Exports surpassed $ 47 billion .
• Georgia ranks 11th in the U . S . for dollar value of exports .
• Georgia is the fifth-largest exporter of aerospace products in the U . S ., exporting $ 9.2 billion of aerospace products last year .
• Agriculture and forestry product exports , another staple for the state , increased by 21 % compared to 2021 .