Georgia Economic Overview
Georgia’s warm southern climate and reputation for hospitality are some of the reasons why more than 100,000 people move there each year, making the state among the top 10 fastest-growing in the U.S. Other reasons are Georgia’s excellent health care, educational facilities, and career opportunities. Lovers of the outdoors can enjoy Georgia’s beaches and famous golf courses, as well as fishing on the state’s many rivers.
Visitors from around the world tour the state’s numerous parks and cultural sites, and Georgia’s tourism destinations employ more than 200,000 residents and generate billions of dollars for the state economy. The cosmopolitan state capital, Atlanta, is also known as the "Capital of the South." Located along major transportation routes, Atlanta is a leading center of tourism, transportation, communications, government, and industry. The historic port city of Savannah is the second largest container port in the country.
Today, Georgia's total gross state product is nearly $400 billion and its per capita personal income is roughly $33,500. The manufacture of textiles and textile products has long been Georgia's leading industry, but additional industries include automobile and aircraft manufacturing, food and chemical processing, timber, printing, paper products, and publishing. Agricultural products include cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans, and poultry.
Georgia’s early settlers flourished in what was first a royal colony, exporting rice, indigo, deerskins, lumber, naval stores, beef, and pork to England, from which they imported the manufactured items they needed. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Georgia began to prosper as a cotton-growing state. Cotton was cultivated under the plantation system using slave labor. By the 1840s a textile industry was established in the state, which recovered from the devastation of the Civil War and expanded into the 1880s.
Atlanta, which had succeeded Milledgeville as the capital in 1868, grew into a thriving industrial city, largely due to its importance as the center of an expanding regional railroad network. The effect of the war on agriculture, which could no longer rely on slave labor, was more serious. The breakup of large plantations resulted in the rise of tenant farming and sharecropping.
After World War I, agriculture suffered severe setbacks as the boll weevil migrated from Mexico and infested all U.S. cotton-growing areas by the 1920s. The plague devastated the cotton industry and affected the entire American South. (Mississippi State University has estimated that the boll weevil plague has cost U.S. cotton producers some $13 billion.) On the other hand, the boll weevil infestation has been credited with stimulating the diversification of the southern economy, in particular Georgia’s peanut industry. The agricultural depression began in Georgia before the Great Depression of the 1930s, which ended with the advent of World War II and the wartime economy.
Today, roughly half of the jobs in Georgia are in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where automobile manufacturing is centered. Service industries are next most important to Georgia's economy, followed by wholesale and retail trade.
Georgia's agricultural outputs are poultry and eggs, corn, soybeans, pecans, peaches, peanuts, rye, cattle, hogs, dairy products, turfgrass, tobacco, and vegetables. Until 2006, Georgia was the world’s largest producer of pecans. In that year pecan production was about 40 million pounds, with revenue of about $62 million. Since 1928, Georgia peach production has been steady at 2.6 million bushels per year, bringing in some $35 million.
Gainesville, in northeast Georgia, boasts of being the "Poultry Capital of the World." This is because Georgia produces some 25 million pounds of chicken and 14 million eggs every day, with a statewide economic impact of nearly $14 billion annually. Cotton, once Georgia's most valuable crop, has declined, as the importance of peanuts, tobacco, and corn increased in the 1990s. Livestock and poultry raising account for the largest share of farm income with broilers, eggs, and cattle as major products. The number of workers in agriculture and livestock is around 56,000.
BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES
A large number of reputable banking and financial institutions are represented in Georgia and have become highly competitive. The state’s 314 insured financial institutions earn $240 million annually. Financial services employs 195,000 workers in credit intermediation and securities and other financial services. Georgia’s banks employ 47,500 workers. The SunTrust Bank was established in Georgia in 1885 and is now one of the leading banking services providers in the United States.
Atlanta has enjoyed enormous growth in the rapidly expanding communications industry, which employs some 116,000 workers. This includes workers in publishing, software publishing, motion picture and sound recording, radio and television broadcasting, cable programming, and Internet publishing and broadcasting.
Georgia is home to Ted Turner, the television pioneer who founded networks TBS, TNT, TCM, Cartoon Network, CNN (the first 24-hour news network), and Headline News, among others. The CNN Center, which houses the news channel's world headquarters, is located in downtown Atlanta. Turner Broadcasting is now a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
Georgia Public Broadcasting operates nine major educational television stations across the state as Georgia Public Broadcasting Television. It serves state agencies and Georgia educational programming through telecommunications technology. The 60 companies that manufacture communications equipment employ around 4,700 workers. Bell South is one of the largest employers in Georgia, with over 80,000 workers.
Nonresidential construction spending in Georgia totaled $23 billion in 2007 and supported 530,000 jobs. Direct construction spending in the state contributed $58 billion (15 percent) to its GSP and added $18 billion in additional personal earnings by residents. Annual pay of construction workers in Georgia averages $43,500. During the recent global economic crisis, revenues from new residential construction contracts declined to $6.6 billion, down from $16.3 billion in 2006.
In 2009 Georgia was ranked first nationally for the use of educational technology. Georgia has also earned national recognition for pioneering programs and high academic standards. There are 116,500 elementary and high school teachers responsible for 1.6 million students in the state. Revenue earned from the education sector amounts to $14.8 billion.
Georgia is home to almost 70 public colleges, universities, and technical colleges and more than 45 private institutes of higher learning. Higher education supports a staff of 70,300 in colleges, universities, and professional schools. Large universities in the state include the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Emory University.
Georgia's electricity generation and consumption are among the highest in the nation. Coal is the primary fuel for electricity generation, providing 75 percent of the state’s energy needs. The state also has two nuclear power plants, which generate 16 percent of Georgia's electricity. Natural gas and oil contribute another 7 percent, and only 1 percent comes from hydroelectric sources.
The utilities industry employs 20,100 workers, including 17,660 in electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, and 1,760 in natural gas distribution. Atlanta-based Southern Company is the main energy company in the Southeast. Another company, Georgia Power, contributes heavily to the state economy, attracting nearly $2 billion in new capital investment projects and more than 8,400 new jobs to the state. Georgia Power's Community and Economic Development organization was ranked as one of the best in the world for 10 years running.
Georgia produces a wide range of entertainment, from ballet to opera to television shows, and hundreds of feature films have been produced in the state. Television networks, Hollywood studios, production companies, and independent producers have invested more than $520 million in Georgia, resulting in an economic impact of some $930 million. Georgia is home to one of the most experienced film crew bases in the country, with more than 4,000 professionals.
Some 300 entertainment productions are produced in Georgia each year, yielding an economic impact of $470 million. Another 800 workers are employed in production, supplies, and support. Georgia’s music industry gained momentum with revenue growth of $300 million from 2005 to 2007. The state’s music industry now ranks number five in the nation, with annual revenues of $1.2 billion and an economic impact of more than $2 billion.
The entertainment industry employs more than 9,500 Georgians working in more than 1,000 companies with an annual payroll of $85 million. The industry pays more than $55 million annually in state taxes.
Georgia’s insurance industry employs around 85,000 workers and contributes $7.4 billion to the gross state product. The insurance industry is responsible for $345 million in state taxes paid on premiums. American Family Life Assurance Company (AFLAC) is a Georgia-based company that provides insurance policies to individuals and employers. In its first year of operations, AFLAC had 6,426 policyholders and $388,000 in assets. It has grown to be a Fortune 500 company with over $56 billion in assets and more than 40 million international clients.
Georgia has a long history in the manufacturing of textiles. Other major manufactured products include transportation equipment, foods, paper products, cigarettes, and chemicals. With a rich resource of pine forests, Georgia is a leading producer of lumber and pulpwood. Automobile manufacturing is important in Atlanta, where some 550,000 employees work in the manufacturing industry. Exports from Georgia manufacturing totaled $25.2 billion in 2008, ranking it the 13th largest state for exports in the nation.
Georgia has more than 2,500 international companies that employ more than 148,000 workers through capital investment of around $24.3 billion. Other corporations headquartered in Georgia include Coca-Cola, Arby's, and Home Depot, with $84 billion in revenue. Some of the largest manufacturing employers in Georgia include Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Lockheed Martin, Tyson Foods, Shaw Industries, Southwire Company, and International Paper.
MINING AND EXTRACTION
The most valuable minerals produced in Georgia are clays, stone, kaolin, iron ore, sand, and gravel, but the state is most famous for its fine marble. The clay palygorskite, known as attapulgite, was named because of its abundance near the Decatur County town of Attapulgus in southwest Georgia. Attapulgite is in demand for its medical, cosmetic, and industrial uses. Mining companies in Georgia employ around 7,700 workers and generate annual sales of $118 million. Of those sales, $8.5 million come from metal ore mining, $370,000 from lead and zinc, $2 million from uranium, and $320,000 from iron.
Georgia’s nonprofit organizations are thriving, and the number of charitable nonprofits grew 36 percent between 2000 and 2005. The 43,029 nonprofit organizations based in the state report income of $60.3 billion. The Georgia Center for Nonprofits aids philanthropic organizations in meeting the challenges in effecting positive change throughout each community. Some of the nonprofit organizations located in Georgia are the Arthritis Foundation, American Cancer Society, and CARE. Habitat for Humanity International’s headquarters is in Georgia and reports annual revenue of $250 million.
There are more than 49,500 retail establishments with more than 789,000 employees in Georgia, generating annual sales in excess of $144.5 billion. Revenue from sales tax collected on retail sales amount to some $700 million. There are 15 Fortune 500 companies and 26 Fortune 1000 companies with headquarters in Georgia, including the Coca-Cola Company (with $28 billion in revenue), Georgia-Pacific, Hooters, Delta Air Lines, Newell Rubbermaid, Primerica Financial Services, United Parcel Service, (with $49 billion in revenue), Waffle House, and NCR Corporation.
Georgia is an important participant in high-tech industry, with Atlanta offering the tenth largest high-tech employment base in the nation. Of Georgia’s 108,000 technology workers, 52,400 are employed in telecommunications, 28,500 in wired telecommunications carriers, 11,800 in wireless telecommunications carriers, and 7,300 as Internet service providers.
The bioscience industry in Georgia provides nearly 18,000 direct jobs and more than 62,000 indirect jobs, as well as $16 billion in sales and $517 million in state and local tax revenues. Life sciences research at the state’s colleges and universities generates about 15,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in sales. Healthcare informatics (the combination of information science, computer science, and health care) in Georgia generates over $4 billion, making the state one of the leading health IT clusters in the U.S. Major employers include Lucent Technologies, Pfeiffer Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Laboratories, and Quintiles Laboratories Limited.
Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest passenger airport, serving more than 90 million in 2008. As the largest employer in Georgia, the airport employs about 56,000 workers, including ground transportation, concessionaire, security, federal government, city of Atlanta, and airport tenant employees. Its net operating revenues for 2008 were $214.8 million and gross revenues totaled $386 million. Each year about 655,000 metric tons of cargo pass through the airport.
The Port of Savannah is the second largest container port in the southeastern U.S. and is the fastest growing port in the United States. Major freight railroads in Georgia include CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway, and there are also two passenger routes. Georgia has 107 public-use airports, nine of which are commercial-aviation airports and 98 of which are general-aviation airports. Two of the state's most important airports are Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which serves more 1.7 million passengers each year, and DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee, Georgia.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM
Georgia’s combination of a mild climate and Southern hospitality makes it a popular tourist draw, attracting more than 60 million visitors annually. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, the Okefenokee Swamp, and the World of Coca-Cola are just a few of the popular attractions. Savannah, a port city on the U.S. Intercoastal Waterway, is famous for its architecture. The Sea Islands are a popular resort destination. Warm Springs, established for treatment of poliomyelitis, is now a historical landmark. Georgia's other attractions include Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, and Stone Mountain. Direct expenditures by tourists amount to some $20.2 billion each year.
As a leader in the aerospace industry, Georgia is home to more than 500 global aerospace-related companies, with numerous aircraft suppliers based in Houston County and the surrounding region. Georgia enjoys a close technology and industrial base development partnership with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, one of three U.S. Air Force Air Logistics Centers in the United States. Robins Air Force Base is Georgia’s largest industrial complex and industrial employer, with approximately 27,000 employees and a total economic impact of more than $4.2 billion.
Georgia companies and researchers are responsible for over $5 billion in contracts to maintain and repair aircraft. They also work in collaboration with USAF engineers to support the missions of Robins Air Force Base, which is a global magnet for aerospace and defense logistics companies. Various federal facilities that are located in Georgia also contribute to the economy, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a dozen military installations.
-World Trade Press