Middle Georgia economy should grow as Peach State grows

lmorris@macon.comMay 5, 2013 

Georgia’s economy is expected to grow in 2013 -- perhaps faster than the country overall -- and the Middle Georgia economy is expected to grow at about the same rate.

This was the conclusion of local and state economists who shared late last year their forecast for the coming year.

“I would submit that you could sum up the recovery of the past three and a half years ... by asking the question: What concentration of the local economy was in construction or real estate or in durable manufacturing?” Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Mercer University, said at the 2013 Georgia Economic Outlook luncheon held in December. “The more your local economy was in education and health care, the better it was.”

In looking at Georgia’s metropolitan statistical areas, the four that held up the best -- Warner Robins, Columbus, Augusta and Hinesville -- had one thing in common, Tutterow said.

“All were blessed to have a significant military presence,” he said.

Even though employment had dropped about 6 percent in the Macon and Warner Robins areas, “we did not contract as much as the rest of the state during the darkest days of the recession,” he said then. “During the good times, we don’t add as many jobs and during the bad times, we don’t shed as many jobs.”

Also, it helped that Middle Georgia didn’t really have a housing bubble as in some areas of the country.

“In the housing market, we generally build as we need it,” Tutterow said. “It did not hit us as much as the nation. ... We did not have a gain of 55 percent in a single year as Las Vegas did, but we also didn’t have the pain of being 60 percent down.”

When looking at Middle Georgia, “diversification matters” when it comes to what industries we should try to attract here, he said. Also, he pointed out how important regionalism is to the area.

As a collective group, the region should be competing for industries.

“At the end of the day, it’s those sectors that produce goods and services that export outside the region that actually (help the local economy),” he said.

Because of the low cost to do business in the state, logistics and tax advantages, Georgia remains competitive with other states when it comes to landing new businesses, Robert Sumichrast, dean of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, said at the forecast meeting. Part of this is because legislation passed in 2012, including the creation of a $100 million “deal-closing fund,” makes the Peach State much more competitive.

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