Economic forecast fairly sunny for Middle Georgia

Georgia expected to outperform nation

lmorris@macon.comJanuary 9, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The statewide and Middle Georgia economies in 2014 are looking pretty good, with job creation on the horizon.

“Nationwide, in the state of Georgia and in central Georgia, 2014 will be the first year since 2006 when things really start to feel normal,” Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Mercer University, said Thursday during the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon. “But the problem is what we have yet to see in this economic recovery ... is stringing together (several) quarters in which the output of our national economy rises 4 or 5 percent.”

About 185 people from across Middle Georgia gathered at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins for the first in the forecast series to be held in 12 cities throughout the state.

“There are lots of reasons to be bullish,” Tutterow said.

One of the reasons this economy has not yet felt normal is because the number of jobs is still down, but that’s about to change.

“In the summer months of this year we will finally reach the point, nationwide, where we surpass where we were in January of 2008 in terms of employment,” he said.

The Macon area is expected to show a comparable increase in jobs, he said.

Manufacturing is performing better today than at any time since the early part of the 2000s, but it is going to take time to recover, he said.

Other areas of the Middle Georgia economy on an upward track include agriculture, banking and residential real estate with regard to an increase in home equity and home values, he said.

“I was glad to hear things are looking up, and it just kind of confirms what we are seeing on our project activity,” Pat Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission, said after the meeting. “I’m not going to say we have turned the corner and we’re out of this slump, but it is encouraging to see the indicators are looking positive.”

One recurring challenge for Middle Georgia is its workforce, Tutterow said.

“What central Georgia, in particular, needs to do is ... embrace workforce preparation broadly,” he said. “It needs to engage the technical colleges, and it needs to (understand) that not all education is created equal. Our ability to compete as a region, as a state and as a nation going forward will be proportionate to our conviction that education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is crucial for the kinds of jobs we want to create in the balance of the 21st century.”

The banks that survived the downtown in the economy are in better position to extend credit now than at any time since 2007, he said. While bank regulators are putting greater restrictions on the banking industry, “banks in central Georgia are looking for quality loans ... and we will see an expansion in 2014,” Tutterow said.

Middle Georgia’s real estate industry, as in the past, has not experienced the boom or bust seen in some other areas of the state and the country. Home prices are going up and people are regaining the equity in their homes, he said. The upward trend in the real estate industry is expected to improve this year.

Georgia expected to outperform nation

“In 2014, Georgia’s economy will continue to recover from the Great Recession,” said interim Dean Charles Knapp of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, who gave the statewide forecast Thursday. “The pace of economic growth will be significantly faster than in 2013.”

The state’s real gross domestic product is expected to increase by 3.3 percent, which will exceed the 2.5 percent growth estimated for the national GDP, he said.

Job growth in the private sector will be fairly balanced in 2014, because Georgia’s growth is not too dependent on just one or two big economic sectors, Knapp said.

“The fastest job growth will occur in construction, followed by professional and business services,” he said. “In contrast, job losses will continue in the government sector, which is the only major economic sector we expect to lose jobs in 2014. Most of those government job losses will be at the federal level rather than the state or local levels.”

One industry creating some of the job growth is expected to be manufacturing, he said. “In 2012 and 2013, we’ve seen major project announcements in aircraft, automotive, construction equipment, life sciences and flooring manufacturing,” Knapp said.

While many of these jobs will be filled in 2014, Knapp cautioned that the factory jobs that have been lost will not come back quickly. Since 2000, Georgia has lost one out of every three manufacturing jobs, he said.

Knapp also addressed the need for the state to do a better job providing an educated workforce.

“To become a state where manufacturing activity truly thrives, Georgia must develop a much better educated and more highly skilled blue-collar workforce,” he said. “That’s because the skill requirements for manufacturing workers are rising very rapidly in the types of factories that are getting built in the U.S.”

Georgia’s economy will outperform the nation’s economy in 2014, “which is a nice change from what we’ve experienced for quite some time,” he said.

“But to outperform the average state by the large margins that we got used to in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, we need to continue to improve Georgia’s competitiveness by improving K-12 education. This will go a long way towards assuring that Georgia’s economic performance is once again among the best in our country.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service