Moderated by Rick Badie
This year, Georgia moved from fourth to first place in a trade publication’s ranking of states with the best business climate. Today, the commissioner of an economic development agency explains why. Meanwhile, the founder of a non-profit challenges leaders to address the region’s economic inequities.
Georgia’s superb business climate
By Chris Carr
When Gov. Nathan Deal took office in January 2011, he made a promise to the people of Georgia that he wouldn’t stop until Georgia was the No. 1 place in the country to do business.
He kept that promise.
Earlier this month, Gov. Deal announced that Georgia is the No. 1 place for business in the United States, according to Site Selection magazine’s annual rankings of states based on their attractiveness to corporate facility investors. Not only is this trade publication ranking a testament to the governor’s dedication to improving our state’s business climate, but it also speaks to the commitment from our partners, communities and citizens.
I am thrilled to be part of an organization that has become a catalyst for the more than 75,000 jobs and more than $14 billion in investment in the state since 2011. These jobs and investment numbers, supported by close to 400 company relocation or expansion announcements, have seen an 86 percent job increase and 70 percent investment increase since 2008. It’s no wonder our state is climbing in the rankings of CNBC, Entrepreneur, Forbes and Site Selection magazines.
Georgia’s outstanding year in global commerce is a byproduct of our pro-business environment. When companies look to relocate or expand, they mainly consider the efficiency of a state’s logistics network, the quality of the workforce and the low cost of doing business. These key aspects have been the foundation from which our No. 1 business climate has been built.
Today’s businesses are more globalized than ever. A company’s need to access key global markets remains vital to staying ahead of competition. Sixteen of Georgia’s Fortune 500 companies can access 80 percent of the U.S. market using Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Our transportation network, including 5,000 miles of rail, connects in less than two days to 80 percent of the U.S. market. Georgia’s deep-water ports host more than 40 lines of shipping service and assist companies in gaining access to 70 percent of the nation’s population.
A primary building block of Georgia’s business climate is our highly skilled workforce. The state ranks No. 1 in workforce development and has one of the largest university systems in the U.S. It houses more than 50,000 annual graduates from 31 public colleges and universities.Georgia Quick Start, our workforce program, has trained more than 1 million Georgians and continues to be one of our greatest resources. These are exciting times for our state, and we will continue to advocate Georgia as the best place to do business.
Chris Carr is commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Inequity across the region
By Nathaniel Q. Smith Jr.
So the Atlanta Braves want to build a $672 million stadium and $400 million entertainment district in Cobb County. The high-end development would have retail shops, restaurants, possibly a hotel and 30,000 parking spaces near the Cobb Galleria and I-285.
There are already enough political, civic and business leaders debating whether the Braves should leave Turner Field. I implore Braves management and metro Atlanta leaders to broaden the discussion to a more fundamental level:
• Will sustainable revitalization finally be created for Atlanta communities that have borne the burden of living near a key economic driver for decades without any economic benefit to themselves or their neighbors?
• What will be done to ensure jobs for the people who want to work in the hundreds of positions the new Cobb development will surely create?
Recently, the Partnership for Southern Equity revealed the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, the South’s first equity mapping project. The atlas contains the findings of a two-year study that pinpoints resource imbalances throughout the 28-county region that perpetuate prosperity for some and poverty for others. Inf Atlanta, some communities enjoy wealth while others — such as Summerhill, Mechanicsville and other neighborhoods near Turner Field and the Georgia Dome — struggle.
A key finding of the atlas is that the need for regional public transportation is now greater now than ever. Baby Boomers are the largest-growing population segment in metro Atlanta. In time, they might need to rely on public transit.
Suburban sprawl has made metro Atlanta car dependent. Ask someone in Clayton County without a car how difficult it is to compete for a job in Gwinnett County. Our communities and businesses suffer without a well-connected transportation system.
In the last decade, the suburbs experienced the largest population growth. More than 1 million people moved out of the city in search of better housing and educational opportunities for their families. Ninety percent of that growth came from minorities, not the white flight that Atlanta experienced decades ago. Suburban poverty increased from 8 percent to 11 percent in counties with an abundance of jobs.
How does poverty increase in areas with jobs? Because poor people are willing to make sacrifices in order to live in places where schools and jobs are located in spite of the “inequity tax” they pay.
I like to tell people that if you are waiting for Superman to save your community, don’t hold your breath. The Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas is more than an information tool. It is a tool people can use to empower movements for change. It is the partnership’s hope that not just community development corporations, nonprofits and business and civic leaders find it useful. We will be showing the average person how to extrapolate information from it and compare resources in their neighborhoods to those of others. It can help bring people together. We are the super heroes we’ve been waiting for.
To review the report, visit http://www.atlantaequityatlas.com.
Nathaniel Q. Smith Jr. is founder of the Partnership for Southern Equity.