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Reasons to be optimistic
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Maybe this recession has just worn us all out, but as we look at the year ahead, it is more difficult, it seems, to find reasons to be optimistic about the coming year than it was, say, a year ago. A year ago, we did not realize that the first six months would continue the downward spiral and that the bottom had not been reached as many thought. So, if we are a little wary this year, it is understandable. But, optimistic we must be, because that feeling is important to the recovery process. So, we trudge fearlessly ahead, confident that better days are ahead and this time, they probably are.

10 reasons to be optimistic about 2011:
Well, the most obvious reason is that this is the end of 2010 and not the beginning. In this calendar year we have seen the end of the freefall in the economy and some improvement however small. Generally, we can count on 2011 to be a better year in most sectors.
There are some positive signs of job growth, even if they are not intensive enough to be picked up in the overall employment percentages. As we look around the state, new job announcements are pretty steady and last year’s announcements will create jobs this year. There is tremendous growth at Fort Benning, Mitsubishi almost finished in Savannah, the Gulfstream expansion there as well, Great Dane construction coming along in Statesboro,and a number of industry announcements all over the state point toward new jobs coming on line. Just in aerospace, defense and advanced manufacturing alone, June through November numbers ($885 million, 2,962 jobs) are already double the previous entire year’s investment and job announcements.
Even though unemployment has edged back up marginally, still, Georgia is doing better than the states around us and the national rate looks like it will continue upward for a while. The home-building and construction business could, it seems to me, use another boost encouraging purchases and the credit part of it needs some attention as well to get homes selling.
Georgia’s ports continue to be the leader of the state’s recovery as double-digit growth has continued the last six months. Additionally, exports have grown faster in Georgia than anywhere on the East Coast differentiating Georgia’s ports from all the rest … we now do 11.9 percent of the nation’s total containerized export business and 7.9 percent of the nations’ import container traffic. In the 1999-2010 decade, Georgia’s ports almost quadrupled traffic. The next highest growth rate (Los Angeles) didn’t quite double and most ports increased 10 percent or so — Charleston’s port decreased in container traffic. Got to keep our eye on the harbor deepening to secure our future, though.
Agricultural products are having a banner year as commodities prices are staying up — good news for farmers and agri-business. Cotton prices, driven by the world market, have maintained a $1.50 per pound level and there appears to have been a bumper production year. Other commodities doing well by historical standards are corn, soybeans and pecans. Forecasts for 2011 are optimistic for all of the above. Increasing cotton acreage is expected to drive up peanut prices in 2011. 
While the rise and fall of the stock market might not directly affect everyday Georgians in a sense, it is nevertheless a positive that the Dow Jones Average is over 11,500 at this writing, floating Georgia businesses’ stock prices as well. Most everyone has a stake in the market these days, whether in a 401k fund or in understanding that the earnings of state retirement systems are affected by the overall market status.     That people still have a heart for those less fortunate is absolutely, in my mind, reason to be optimistic. The United Way Campaign in Savannah just announced that it exceeded its fundraising goal and even exceeded last years total. Area campaigns that I have kept up with have done amazingly well, especially considering the economy.
The smooth change in administrations going on right now should definitely be reason to be optimistic. A good working relationship between the governor, lieutenant governor and both houses is even more important when fiscal issues as critical as this year’s must be considered. Georgia has been fortunate to keep its strong financial ranking even as five of the last eight years have been negative revenue years. Steady leadership and meeting financial issues head-on will serve the state well. States that were quick to raise taxes to meet budget shortfalls at the beginning of the recession are back this year cutting budgets having found that there is little certainty in these times in hunting new taxes as revenue to meet shortfalls.
While admittedly those trying to find work cannot spend at a higher level, the first indications of retail sales from this holiday period look pretty strong. At the very least, consumer confidence appears to be up. Auto sales and sales of durable goods appear to have set on a positive trend.    
After reading Jim Wooten’s mention in his recent column of the joy of caring for a grandchild, I remembered the best reasons, seven of them, to be optimistic not only about 2011 but about the future of our state. The joy and love of Taylor, Emerson, Avery, Alexandria, Gracen and twins Addilyn and Caroline insure that this writer’s outlook for this year and beyond can only be optimistic and hopeful!
From the many responses received, it is obvious that everyone wants to feel good about this coming year and that there are many heartwarming success stories even in these times. Some wrote of starting successful new businesses, others found reason to hope in a number of areas, both state and federal. What was apparent in the responses was the continued good will for others and the genuine belief that our country will not just survive but prosper again. 
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