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Economic development means business
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Well, it’s hard to please some people even some of the time. One week the state is criticized for offering incentives to industry to expand or come to Georgia to create jobs. Seems like the next week, the state is criticized for personal income not matching the national or regional growth rate and insinuating a lack of investment in quality job growth.

One thing is sure as far as I can see — raising taxes on those who are working, especially if their relative income has not risen, is the wrong approach to long-term economic vitality. The philosophy of the leadership of this state for many years has been to foster job growth and to keep Georgia businesses and industry growing and competing.  At the same time, every governor I have served with has spent an inordinate amount of time recruiting new jobs to our state and supporting policies that support continued growth by Georgia companies.

The fact that the world continues to change and the challenges grow only points out that prosperity is no cake walk for any state. But Georgia has many positives going for it that, we believe, will lead to long-term prosperity — whatever that looks like in the new world.

Over the next few columns, we will look at Georgia’s climate for job growth and the state’s efforts through the Department of Economic Development to recruit new industry to the state.

Many factors support governor’s efforts
Gov. Nathan Deal has made it one of his top priorities to make Georgia a place that is good for businesses. This has not been an easy task as he has had to convince recession-weary companies and entrepreneurs that Georgia is where they can thrive and prosper.  But the location of businesses such as Kia, Baxter and Caterpillar shows Georgia has a lot to offer. Georgia has been recognized for its affordable cost of living, pro-business climate, and available infrastructure and the state remains a top destination for growth-minded companies. Let’s look at Georgia’s efforts, its strengths and evaluate the state’s incentives to industry.

Georgia’s pro-business climate
Geographically diverse and home to an abundance of natural resources, Georgia ranks as one of the fastest growing states in population and business growth. In addition to its natural beauty and temperate climate, the overall cost of living is below the national average. In 2010, KPMG ranked Atlanta the second-least expensive city in the country and the state of Georgia ninth for the best state to start a business. To preserve its status as a business-friendly state, Georgia maintains a series of competitive advantages including favorable regulations, relatively low corporate tax rates, access to markets, and a strong talent pool of skilled workers.

Education – meeting the demand for an educated workforce
Equally important is the quality of education, which feeds into business productivity and growth and impacts state competitiveness. With over 50 percent of the state budget dedicated to primary, secondary, and higher education, Georgia is committed to developing and maintaining a highly skilled workforce. In fall 2012, the University System of Georgia, which is composed of 31 higher education institutions including four research universities, two regional universities, 12 state universities and 13 state colleges, enrolled over 314,365 students.

The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) enrolled an additional 170,000 students eager to obtain relevant, in-demand skills and training. According to the 2012 edition of “U.S. News and World Report College Rankings,” Georgia remains one of only five states with two or more institutions ranked among the top 25 national public colleges and universities.

Annually, thousands of students graduate and enter the Georgia labor force. Through an interagency partnership, the Board of Regents, TCSG, and state leaders are working to increase the number of students entering the workforce through the Complete College Georgia plan. This statewide collaboration reexamines the role higher education plays in the success of the state and outlines the use of effective policies and practices which best support student success and effective use of resources. Funding will begin to focus on completion rather than enrollment solely.

Next week: Georgia’s infrastructure

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