Georgia named top state for business investment
by Jason Lowrey
Nov 10, 2013 | 1883 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In its November issue, Site Selection magazine named Georgia the number one state for business. The publication, which focuses on economic development, ranks the business environment of every state each year using criteria based on a survey of corporate site selectors, qualified projects and tax burdens.

Georgia’s ranking came to a total of 636 points on the scale, with North Carolina just two points behind. Texas, Ohio and Tennessee round out the top five. Last year’s rankings put Georgia in fourth place.

In a press release, Commissioner of Economic Development Chris Carr praised his department’s working partners in achieving the high rank.

“Our top-ranking business climate would not be possible without the efforts of our partners across the state who have long worked to position Georgia as a global economic powerhouse,” he said in the release. “Rankings like these serve as a great calling card for site selectors, and then it’s up to us to follow up and give them deeper insight into our vast resources for business.”

On a local level, Executive Director of Cartersville-Bartow County Economic Development Melinda Lemmon said she was not surprised to hear of the top ranking, and believed it would be an advantage for Bartow County development.

“I think it will. It doesn’t surprise me. It makes absolute sense understanding what businesses look at, looking at what the state has to offer, I think Georgia being number one on that ranking can certainly be used to bring more companies here, and hopefully we’ll get the chance to land that. Especially as we compete among other states for a project,” she said.

Lemmon thought the working relationship between the state and local economic development offices has led to Georgia’s success in acquiring new business investments and expansions. Over the past year, Bartow has seen an announced Toyo expansion worth $210 million, the opening of Eco-Energy Holding’s ethanol train facility in Cartersville, the announcement of a new Shaw $85 million plant in Adairsville and the construction of voestalpine’s plant, the first Highland 75 industrial park occupant.

“But, actually, I know that having a local economic developer or a team in place in the community is helpful for several reasons. The state incentives alone don’t win the project,” Lemmon said. “You’ve got to have a community that’s open to business, that will help the company — not only attract them there, but provides some service after the sale. In the long run, a community and the company both want that long-term partnership. So without having that economic development team in place to support that that industry, when it becomes an existing industry, wouldn’t meet the mutual goals.”

The intersection of community and business is an aspect of Bartow County that Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Frank Harris Jr. praised. When local government and schools work together with a strong chamber of commerce, businesses will come to the area, he said, especially when they make investments the size of Toyo or Shaw.

“How long do you think they want to stay in a community to recoup that investment? You’re talking about 20 or 30 years. If you’re going to put your roots down that deep and you’ve got a place where the governments and everybody fight each other. If you have governments that fight, your taxes are higher and everything’s going to be worse,” he said. “But most of these [businesses] don’t mind fair taxes because they want healthy communities. That’s where their kids are getting taught. That’s where their workforce is getting taught. It’s funny how everything kind of balances. ...

“When you get things in balance, great things can happen. You get people working together. The communities have their act together and they work together. They’ll land these deals.”

Site Selection magazine is published by Conway Data Inc., and is read by 49,000 executives, according to the release. Such publicity will ultimately benefit Bartow County, Harris said.

“If I read this magazine I picked up, I’m going to look at the best places in Georgia to go. ... Where are the places that you’re going to get the biggest industry is going to be on the transportation corridors and where they have workforce and capacity. That’s what we have,” he said.