Georgia’s economy is humming along at a strong pace with recent record growth in jobs and an unemployment rate matching the all-time low set 18 years ago. And once again, Georgia’s business climate has been selected as the best in the country.

The state Labor Department reported the jobless rate in October fell to 3.4 percent, matching the December 2000 rate, and total jobs in the state hit 4.64 million. State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the number of unemployed Georgians dropped to less than 175,000. “It was 2001 when we last saw the number of unemployed this low in Georgia, and there were a million fewer people in the workforce back then,” Butler said. In October this year 5,400 jobs were added, an increase of 72,500 from a year ago, while the labor force grew by 5,479 for a total workforce of more than 5.1 million.

These strong growth figures came as Georgia was recognized for an unprecedented seventh year in a row as having the top business climate among all the states. The ranking by Site Selection magazine cited key business climate factors that do not change significantly year to year — including available workforce, infrastructure and business costs; resources and pro-business programs provided by state, regional and local leaders; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — “the beating heart of Southeast commerce and global connectivity and a key reason cited routinely by site selectors as a top factor in their pick of a Georgia location for their capital investment.”

Georgia’s economy is on a roll, and the site selections, critical in business decisions to locate plants and corporate offices, “see opportunity for growth across our state,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. The figures bear this out and there are solid reasons behind them, as the governor said.

“Our top-ranked workforce development initiatives — combined with a conservative, pro-business policy approach, world-class higher education system and a logistics network that puts the global economy within arm’s reach — make Georgia a top competitor for investment from businesses large and small — across the country and around the world,” Kemp said.

In his announcement of the ranking, Kemp emphasized his administration’s focus “on creating opportunities for hardworking Georgians in every corner of the state.” He said, “Our efforts to cut burdensome regulations, continue developing a world-class workforce, and market all regions of the Peach State through the formation of a Rural Strike Team have not gone unnoticed, and this announcement affirms that.”

Spreading economic growth beyond the metro Atlanta area is a priority for Kemp, who cited these impressive figures: “Of the 332 projects we did worth $7.4 billion of investment, 74% of them were outside of I-285,” he said. “This is helping turn the tide in rural Georgia, and we’re focused on that.”

The Rural Strike Team is in the formative stage with a legislative council working on policy, bolstered by Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, the Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia, the Department of Community Affairs and Department of Economic Development and the Quick Start program, a free program for training workers — oldest of its kind in the country with a record of updating skill sets of more than one million employees in 6,500 projects.

The Strike Force will give rural communities the opportunity to partner with the governor’s office to locate potential mega-sites and benefit from state resources for site planning and necessary improvements. “It becomes site ready and can be permitted very quickly. We hope to have a couple of those ready per year, so there are sites we can put out there on the market.”

Another part of Kemp’s push to grow the economy is a statewide business court judge authorized by a 2018 constitutional amendment and modeled to some extent after Delaware’s chancery court. Legislative committees recently confirmed the first judge for the Georgia court which is intended to resolve business lawsuits faster “to speed up the legal process, which will cut down on legal fees for businesses,” Kemp said.

Looking ahead, the governor promises to “continue raising the bar and working with our economic development partners in the public and private sectors to ensure that Georgia stays the best place in the nation to live, work, and raise a family.” As this year nears its close, the economic outlook appears to be positive, but there are major issues such as the trade war with China that can upset the apple cart. But for now, Georgia is on a roll economically.

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