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Georgia's Economic Moment



The state of Georgia is one of the country’s largest economic development success stories since the turn of the century. The state has emerged from the pack of peer southern states to modernize its economy, grow overall productivity, and attract new industries that have spurred job growth and overall economic prosperity. Fourth Economy has been lucky to witness much of this growth firsthand. In the past five years, we’ve taken on a variety of engagements in Georgia that have exposed us to thriving parts of the Atlanta MSA, suburban counties throughout the state that are looking to capture new development, and smaller cities that are feeling the effects of rapid statewide growth. Through each project, community conversation, and bit of research, our team has gathered insights on the drivers of economic competitiveness, barriers to success in individual areas, and questions related to how equitable economic growth has truly been. Here are the top three trends that we’re hearing across the state.


Context


A recent Fourth Economy analysis of state-level economic competitiveness and performance shows that Georgia has achieved Top 10 rankings for both GDP and job growth from 2012 to 2022. The state also boasts high marks in a variety of innovation-related categories, such as total R&D, business starts, and small business loans. McKinsey cites a top-quartile economic recovery from the state since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Georgia Department of Economic Development has boasted record-breaking successes in business and job attraction, retention, and expansion for three consecutive years, generating $24 billion in impact and 38,400 new jobs through 426 projects in FY23 alone. This momentum has been felt at an international level, with Georgia ranking fourth on CNBC’s 2023 Top States for Business listing. 


In recent decades, the state’s economy has shifted from one reliant on agriculture, manufacturing, and logistics to one capturing significant domestic market share in film and entertainment, electric vehicle manufacturing, technology, and corporate headquarters. While much of this development can be felt in and around the Atlanta MSA, the impacts of newfound productivity, industry shifts, and population gains have statewide implications. To sustain these growth patterns, leaders from the local to state level must be proactive in their efforts surrounding community and economic development planning and practices, ensuring the state maintains its competitiveness while offering a high quality of life and opportunity for all. Fourth Economy has identified three key focus areas for achieving this success.


Trends in Georgia



Accommodating Megasite Developments


Megasite developments are popping up across the state, bringing new jobs to various regions in the tens of thousands. Developments such as the $5 billion Rivian plant across Morgan and Walton Counties, the $7.59 billion Hyundai and LG EV manufacturing facility in Bryan County, and the $6.9 billion Rowen development in Gwinnett County will alter the economic and demographic compositions of these geographies for decades to come. With these opportunities comes massive planning efforts to ensure community needs regarding infrastructure, workforce training, and health are heard and met through multiple phases of development. In each instance, community partnerships and benefit agreements are needed to ensure megaprojects allow for economic development without the loss of community character and identity, seeing the public and private sectors work together for mutual benefit. 



Ensuring Housing Affordability


As seen in much of the country, housing affordability is one of the state’s largest hot-button issues. As the state has become a destination for high-wage jobs, housing prices have skyrocketed across the state in both metropolitan and rural areas. Harvard’s 2023 study The State of the Nation’s Housing notes that Georgia lost sixty-seven thousand low-income rental units between 2019 and 2021 alone, more than any state except North Carolina. Housing researchers at Florida Atlantic University believe Georgia has the most overpriced housing market in the country, led by a 45 percent+ premium on housing units in Atlanta. Many regions, counties, and cities are left to fend for themselves in establishing equitable housing ecosystems. Metro Atlanta has launched a $200 million public-private investment collaborative through the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to provide funding for affordable housing preservation and development. Gwinnett County launched a government-led Housing and Community Development Division to create and lead solutions for the county’s shortage of housing development, specifically targeting more affordable and “missing middle” units. As areas across the state look to leverage opportunities relevant to statewide economic development, attainable housing is a critical piece of creating a stable workforce, high quality of life, and more equitable economic opportunity.



Creating Accessibility in Transportation 


Georgia is a car-centric state that suffers greatly from immense traffic around metropolitan areas. Atlanta consistently ranks among the ten worst cities in the country for traffic congestion, and according to INRIX’s 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard, Atlanta is the twenty-eighth worst city in the world for total hours lost in traffic per capita. The traffic caused by the state’s car-friendly nature is only exacerbated by the importance of Georgia’s highways to commerce throughout the Southeast: I-20, I-85, and I-75 all traverse the state and converge in Atlanta, bringing over thirty-nine million trucks through the state annually. Investments such as the Northeast Georgia Inland Port in Hall County will grow this volume even further. To maintain quality of life and adequate infrastructure for traveling to school, work, and forms of recreation and leisure, communities across Georgia must work to align their transportation priorities and build sustainable, modern systems of mobility. Multigovernment partnerships such as “the ATL” can hold the keys to enhanced coordination and impact. A top-down approach from the state will also prove crucial in updating the state’s transportation systems for increased efficiency.


 

Georgia, like any state, has its own unique advantages and barriers for continued growth and prosperity. Interested in learning more about the problems we’re working to solve across the state? Check out our project gallery or email us at [email protected].

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