Georgia is either poised for job acceleration or stuck in neutral, depending on which reports and speeches you’ve read recently.
In an article titled “What’s Wrong With Georgia?”, the Atlantic magazine honed in on the state’s standing as second-worst in the nation on unemployment (7.2 percent, above the national average of 5.8 percent in November) with a story that aimed to show the disconnect between the jobs lost in the recession and the skills required to fill the jobs in the recovering economy.
In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Nathan Deal positioned job growth in the state as a positive, especially in light of big wins in attracting foreign auto makers.
“The announcement last week that Mercedes-Benz USA is moving its North American headquarters to Georgia is further evidence that our state will continue to be a leader in job creation,” he said, claiming Georgia had created 93,000 jobs in the past 12 months. “The Mercedes slogan is ‘the Best or Nothing.’ The company that accepts nothing but the best chose Georgia… I’ll take that. And in the near future, Porsche North America will open their headquarters near the Atlanta airport.”
Kia Motors, the Korean auto maker that opened a plant in Georgia in 2009, was credited as paving the way for the industry, telling “the world that we have the quality workforce and business environment needed to thrive in the automotive industry,” Mr. Deal’s remarks read.
Still, the Atlantic story implies that the state’s “laissez-faire,” low-tax/high-incentive approach to attracting corporations has left behind the common man, especially in the state’s struggling rural areas and Atlanta’s suburbs. The premise is that cutting taxes to lure rich companies has gutted budgets for workforce training and technical education.
Though he doesn’t address it head-on, it’s hard to see Mr. Deal countenancing such a view. The Kia plant, which apparently cost the state more than $400 million worth of incentives, is now credited with creating 10,000-plus jobs – mostly in manufacturing – when suppliers are factored in.
That said, he did address the stubbornly high jobless rate and said the state is tackling its education problems.
“Virtually every reliable indicator points to one thing, a growing economy. And to those of you who have been paying attention, you will notice that the unemployment rate, the prodigal son of indicators, is even falling back in line. For those who were too long unemployed or underemployed, for their relatives who watched them struggle to get hired, and for the Georgians who understand that a working economy is an economy in which people work, we are making a difference. The ocean of need is vast, but shrinking, and we will continue to close the distance between where we are and where we wish to be.”