EV projects from Rivian, an electric truck maker whose signature R1T is featured here, and Hyundai further boosted already strong investment numbers. Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Two $5 billion-plus electric-vehicle plants, each of which set its own record as the state’s largest-ever project, drove a record year for investment and job-creation in Georgia, augmented by a steady inflow of foreign investments in automotive, life sciences, fintech and beyond. 

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, companies that worked with the Georgia Department of Economic Development on 358 projects announced that they would invest $21.2 billion and create 51,132 jobs. That’s nearly double the previous record for capital investment and is 53 percent higher than the prior jobs record. 

State officials pointed out that even without the two EV plants from Rivian and Hyundai, which will account for a combined 10,000-plus jobs when built, the state still would have set a new record in job creation. 

Foreign investment projects (including South Korea-based Hyundai Motor’s car and battery complex near Savannah) accounted for nearly 40 percent of all investments, at about $8 billion, higher than all investment in fiscal year 2018.

“That is a huge jump from previous years,” said Pat Wilson, commissioner for economic development.

Unsurprisingly given the outlier that was the Hyundai project, Korea was the top source nation, followed by Germany, France, Japan and the Netherlands. 

In a politically charged speech announcing the numbers in the north wing of the State Capitol, Gov. Brian Kemp thanked the consular corps in Georgia, including about 25 that had planned to attend the event, for their support in telling the state’s story internationally. 

Mr. Wilson, who led missions to Germany, the United Kingdom and Korea during the fiscal year, said the diplomats were invaluable ambassadors for the state, both during their terms here and after they moved on to new postings. 

“They become advocates for Georgia all over the world, and we’ve seen that over and over again,” he said. 

Mr. Wilson added that the state’s achievements were in part thanks to a long-term strategy of building international relations through its 12 international offices. Korea’s SKC, he noted, first invested in Covington, Ga., in 1996, and cultivation of a relationship with this SK Group affiliate over time played a role in positioning the state for SK On’s massive electric vehicle battery plant in Commerce, a $2.6 billion project in its first phase.

Facing what looks to be a stiff re-election challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams this fall, Mr. Kemp sought to contrast the state’s economic success with what he framed as Democrat-led dysfunction in Washington. 

Having previously put the onus for record inflation on the White House, the governor said the Senate’s newly passed climate and tax bill, which could pass in the House as early as this week, would add new burdens to already-struggling Georgia families, without mentioning how it might drive demand for the very electric vehicles that will power the state’s “jobs of the future.” 

The governor touted the state’s record-low unemployment rate, a five-month suspension of the state gas tax and an initiative to return $1.1 billion in surplus to taxpayers earlier this year as wins for his constituents. 

“These and other measures are needed now more than ever after those in Washington voted this past weekend to raise taxes on the majority of Americans and businesses while they labor under 40-year high inflation. But while they double down on bad policies in DC, in Georgia, we will continue to do what works for our people and our employers,” he said. 

Mr. Kemp pointed out that the majority of jobs announced — including foreign-owned projects like Aurubis, a German metals recycler putting a large facility in Augusta — were outside of metro Atlanta. He said this proved the effectiveness of a strategy focused on spreading opportunity to rural areas and outlying cities. 

“If anyone wants to suggest that we aren’t delivering on jobs and opportunities for everyone in this state, they should get their facts straight before commenting on things that they simply do not understand. You know numbers are not like politicians, they don’t lie,” he said. 

Georgia would not rest on its laurels, but instead would forge ahead like it’s “gameday” every day, he said, adding that the record numbers represented both a “high water mark and a new challenge” in the state that has been ranked as the best in the country for business. 

In addition to 12 automotive projects promising 16,000 jobs, Georgia saw momentum in fintech, where companies like Cisco and Visa helped drive $32 million in investment and 1,215 new jobs, as well as in life sciences, where companies like Boston Scientific and Boehringer Ingelheim, created 147 more jobs in the sector than the prior year.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...