We published our “10 reasons to be optimistic” column last week, and I mentioned I started doing that during the recession. This year, I went back and reread previous “10 reasons” columns dating back to 2008, and the revealing thing was what passed for optimism six years ago and forward through the Great Recession.
On Dec. 23, 2008, I talked about our $1.2 billion reserve (which subsequently disappeared as the recession worsened). We had a dramatic drop in oil prices and the Dow had dropped to 7,500. There was talk of military build-up at Fort Stewart and Fort Benning. Georgia had lost the two automobile plants the state claimed, but we were optimistic about the Kia plant coming on line.
In 2009, I titled the column “10 wishes for Christmas” because the bottom was falling out. I mentioned the number of times the governor had to reduce the revenue estimate during the year and one wish was for a revenue estimate that lasted all year, and even for two months in a row that revenues did not fall 10 percent per month. Wish No. 3 was for the state’s unemployment rate to fall under 10 percent again. Amazingly, wish No. 7 was for legislative leaders to get together to solve the “transportation conundrum”… some things never change.
In 2010, we were back to “10 reasons to be optimism” and the first one was that the fact that it was 2010 and not 2009 again, was some reason to be optimistic. The Dow was up to 10,500 and we had some restored faith in our 401(k)s. Georgia was proud to hang on to its AAA bond rating, and we used $47 million in interest savings to start rebuilding the states reserves.
We listed some encouraging economic development announcements, like NCR relocating to Georgia and Kia coming on line, and noted the rapid growth of the movie and TV industry in the state. The years-long drought was declared over and Lake Lanier was back up. In agriculture, we were glad to see cotton bringing 70 cents per pound ...
In 2011, we felt like the freefall in state revenues was behind us, but of course, we found the state at a new level, a $3.5 billion lower revenue level. Some industrial growth led by Gulfstream was encouraging and the ports began to show faster growth than any other port on the east coast. We noted Savannah’s port now did 11.9 percent of nation’s total containerized export business and 7.9 percent of import container movement. Cotton had risen to $1.50 per pound, and other commodities were doing well. The Dow was up to 11,500, and we noted Georgia seemed more prepared than some states to resume growth because we had cut the state’s spending, rather than raising taxes during the recession unlike some states.
In 2012, the realization that we were in a period of a new normal had sunk in. There was not going to be this huge “bounce back,” and the country had settled in for a long recovery period. I mentioned that maybe we needed to just “lower expectations.” Kia was a bright spot with its employment growing. The Brunswick port’s roll-on/roll-off auto importing and exporting activity was up 50 percent.
Georgia was recognized for being in the top five states for population growth and the state was gaining a congressional seat after the census. We noted how the Chinese had started a love affair with our pecans and cotton was about $1 per pound. The state was showing moderate improvement in revenue with 17 months in a row of month-over-month increases. We noted the United States’ bond rating going down, while Georgia maintained its AAA rate.
In 2013, we were concerned about Washington and the $17 trillion deficit. We noted $7.5 billion in new investment in the state, with 385 projects involved. Commodity prices were at an all-time high for soybeans, corn and peanuts, but cotton had returned to earth at 70 cents per pound. A third wood pellet plant announcement fueled Georgia’s involvement in exporting to the biomass market in Europe.
For the first time, increased production of domestic oil and gas was mentioned and that Savannah’s port might become an exporter of natural gas. We noted Georgia’s continued population growth, even after the census, and that the state ranked third for immigration. We noted the national scandal of local and state retirement funds being underfunded and how Georgia’s ERS and TRS were both well-funded. New home building permits were up 31 percent from recession levels.
In the 2014 “10 reasons” column, real enthusiasm showed for the first time. Job creation was up 10 percent, and Georgia was ranked No. 6 for the fastest job growth. Home prices were rising and the state’s reserve fund had recovered to $682 million. The ports were growing in container movement and in automobile imports and exports. State revenues, with help from the new title fee, were up 5.1 percent.
So this set the stage for last week’s “10 reasons” column. Maybe you might want to go back and note the encouraging statistics that point to Georgia’s solid growth and success in 2015.
Previous columns are available at www.senatorjackhill.com.
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