Governor Brian Kemp touted Georgia’s pro-business climate on Friday in Black Creek at the site of Hyundai’s Metaplant America, shortly before signing both a tax exemption and the state’s $32.4 billion budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“For nine years in a row, Georgia has been named the No. 1 state to do business,” he said. “That’s not just by chance.”
Kemp said the No. 1 rating, which came from Area Development magazine, was due to policies, partnerships and “it’s because we budget wisely and carefully, and it’s especially because of the resiliency of hardworking Georgians.”
It was Kemp’s third trip as governor to the roughly 3,000-acre site near I-16 where Hyundai is building an electric vehicle plant capable of producing more than 300,000 EVs a year. The South Korean car manufacturer’s Metaplant America is expected to begin production in 2025, hiring some 8,100 workers at full production.
At more than $5.5 billion, Hyundai’s investment is the largest single economic development project in state history, officials say.
Kemp said Hyundai’s impact goes beyond investments in Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham counties, all part of the Savannah Harbor Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority.
He cited investments of Hyundai suppliers elsewhere in the state of nearly $7 billion as reason to extend an exemption of sales and use taxes for “certain projects designed as competitive projects of regional significance,” Kemp said, adding “and I’m proud to say that most of the communities that have benefited from this tool are located outside of metro Atlanta.
Hyundai exemptions totaled roughly $1 billion.
Kemp said his budget also aid rural Georgians by helping “us remain the best state for opportunity.”
Among the items the governor highlighted on Friday were pay raises for teachers and certain law enforcement officers and restoration of funding for the Hope scholarship.
Funding for health care and nursing educators and to beef up the state’s efforts to prosecute human traffickers were also mentioned by the governor.
Kemp, who after the signing went to Chatham County to sign more legislation, was joined by first Lady Marty Kemp, Georgia Economic Development Director Pat Wilson, House Speaker Jon Burns and Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger, also chairman of the Savannah Harbor Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority.
A number of area state legislators and local officials were also on hand.
Kemp said the 2024 budget includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for teachers and will fully fund state schools while adding $26.9 million to increase the number of counselors.
The governor said the budget also restores funding to Hope scholarships to cover 100 percent tuition at state colleges and technical schools for eligible students.
Law enforcement officers in certain agencies will also get a hefty pay raise of some $6,000 on top of a recent $5,000 increase, while Marty Kemp’s efforts to stop human trafficking will see funding to add an analyst to the Human Trafficking Prosecution unit in an effort to target massage parlors. Kemp said last year the unit rescued 116 victims.
The governor also pointed to $52 million in funding for health care through the state’s Pathways to Coverage program, which will “offer Medicaid to tens of thousands of able-bodied, low income Georgians who would not otherwise qualify,” he said. “Our team is hard at work to ensure we successfully launch that program on July 1 of this year.”
Kemp also pointed to a student loan repayment program to help address a shortage of qualified nursing educators.