Workforce skills and workforce development are site selectors' first and third most important location criteria, according to the results of a survey we conducted this fall (transportation infrastructure is second). The survey plays a key role in the composition of our annual business climate ranking. The rest is based on an index of project activity and other objective factors, as the article in this issue explains.
Spoiler alert: As will surprise almost no one, Georgia places first in that ranking for the sixth consecutive year. Outgoing Governor Nathan Deal spoke with me at length last month about this winning streak, the policies he championed to make the state more receptive to investment and his confidence that the Peach State will remain a top business climate after a new occupant moves into the Governor's Mansion in January.
Leaving his office in the Capitol and making my way through Atlanta's booming Midtown and Buckhead districts to our offices in nearby Peachtree Corners, the development erupting around me offered a silent echo of the Governor's success, and confidence in the future. The Midtown area, Atlanta's booming heart wrapped around Tech Square and Georgia Institute of Technology, sits today as one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.
But there's more to Georgia than the capital city, as goes for every state getting economic development right.
Not only is Georgia attracting capital investment and accolades from investors about its business climate, it's also attracting the people needed to staff the positions created by that investment. In fact, Georgia is attracting more people than any other state in the top 50 small-county-ranking component of the Third Annual Talent Attraction Scorecard, from Emsi, which was just released by the labor market advisory.
"Many of Georgia's small counties are doing exceptionally well in talent attraction, particularly Burke and Twiggs counties," says Joshua Wright, Emsi's vice president, economic and workforce development. Burke County is south of Augusta, and Twiggs is near Macon. "Both rank in the top 10 nationally among counties with fewer than 100,000 people, and both are seeing very strong job growth in manufacturing. The good news for Georgia is that much of the new jobs in smaller communities are going to young workers — Gen Z or millennials." Seven other such counties in the state show significant job growth and skilled job growth in the period from 2013 to 2017, according to the Scorecard, and like Burke and Twiggs none of these counties are in the Atlanta Metro.
"Many local economic developers are now more focused on people attraction than business attraction," says Wright. "The labor market is that tight. The Talent Attraction Scorecard gives large and small communities the chance to benchmark their efforts in recruiting skilled workers to their cities and towns."
That's a reminder that both cities and towns contribute to and benefit from a strong state business climate. Hopefully, state and local leaders recently voted into office in your state and ours understand that.
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.