Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Jun/Jul 08)
Calling fiscal year 2007 "a significant year," Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, says that 281 projects were announced, both domestically and internationally, many from entrepreneurs and small businesses. "Our economy is projected to grow at 2.4 percent, which is higher than the national average," he says.
Foreign direct investment has a major economic influence. Since the announcement of a Kia auto assembly facility in West Point with a commitment to hire 2,500 workers and begin operations next year, "a number of Tier-One suppliers have also chosen to locate here," says Stewart. Korea-based Sewon Precision is locating its first U.S. plant in LaGrange, creating 700 jobs to manufacture stamped chassis, body components, and decorative trim pieces for the Kia plant. Another Kia supplier, Sejong Georgia LLC, anticipates 250 jobs at its new LaGrange muffler and exhaust systems manufacturing facility, planned to begin production in October 2009.
Canada is Georgia's largest trading partner, with $4.7 billion of exports. At the end of 2007, Governor Sonny Perdue signed a declaration to charter the SEUS (South East United States)-Canadian Provinces Alliance, to promote trade and tourism between Canada and the southeastern states. Says Stewart, "It models our success with SEUS-Japan, started in 1975, which has been a factor in attracting many of the more than 300 Japanese companies currently operating in our state."
Additionally, says Stewart, "We have had much success with China, Georgia's second-largest trading partner." In April, the governor opened the Beijing Georgia Business Advisory Center in Beijing to encourage foreign direct investment and find new export markets and tourism opportunities. Also in April, point-of-sale manufacturer Pax Technology Ltd. of China announced an Atlanta venue for its U.S. headquarters, sales, and support center. Stewart points out two Chinese projects in 2007: General Protecht in Barnesville, for an assembly and distribution facility for electrical devices, and Sany Heavy Industry Company, Ltd.'s U.S. headquarters and assembly center in Peachtree City.
Other foreign countries are also boosting employment in Georgia, including transformer company Group EFACEC of Portugal's 600 jobs, compressed air technology firm BEKO of Germany adding 35 jobs, and software development center for Wipro of India, which is expected to hire 500 people over the next three years.
The biosciences sector continues to expand, with concentrations in vaccine development, cancer research, immunology and medical devices. Georgia is home to 270 pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, diagnostic, ag-biotech, and biofuel companies. The state is also headquarters to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, Atlanta will host the BIO International Convention, a four-day event which is forecast to attract 25,000 people from 70 countries.