“Mercedes USA made one thing very clear about its decision to leave -- the cost of doing business and the tax environment is just too high here to be competitive with a state like Georgia.”
-- Michael Drewniak, spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Atlanta scores another big fish as Mercedes-Benz USA has decided to relocate its headquarters from Montvale, New Jersey, to Atlanta. Montvale has been the U.S. home Mercedes for 50 years, according to The New York Times. Mercedes becomes the second German car maker to chose Atlanta. Porsche is building a $100 million, 28-acre facility. While the investment is much welcomed, the company already had its headquarters in Sandy Springs and the new facility brings only 100 additional workers. Mercedes will bring 1,000 jobs and a $100 million facility.
Obviously, Georgia has earned its distinction as the best state to do business, but as the General Assembly gets set to open its 2015 session, lawmakers need to strike a balance. While the state’s tax structure is attractive, Georgia’s unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the country. Only Mississippi and the District of Columbia have higher rates.
The big concern is education. As quoted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Detlev von Platen, CEO of Porsche Cars North America, pointed to three reasons his company chose Atlanta, “First, because it is on the East Coast. This is very important because it is close to the German time zone and it has the main U.S. markets. Second, Atlanta is providing us with one of the best work forces in the United States because of its universities. And finally, the Atlanta airport, where 80 percent of the U.S. population is within a two-hour flight.”
While no one can take credit for geography, the impact of the Atlanta airport and the Port of Savannah are great examples of foresight. But, if the state doesn’t invest in education, that third advantage can quickly disappear. Gov. Nathan Deal pledged to start figuring out how to fund schools in a better manner than the QBE formulas that have never been fully funded. We hold him at his word and expect him to lay out part of his plan in his State of the State address next week.