ROSWELL, Ga. – Gov. Nathan Deal was the guest speaker Feb. 8 for the Fulton County Republican Party breakfast at Country Club of Roswell, and the party faithful turned out to hear what he had to say.
More than 200 packed the country club’s ballroom to hear Deal fire the opening salvo on his re-election campaign, and he had some talking points to boast about.
The state’s economy is picking up after the recession doldrums, and is making progress. Among the highlights are his policies that are paying off for the state.
Deal said no to expansion of Medicaid in Georgia. Instead of incurring more health care costs, Deal wanted to get people working again. That has paid off with 217,000 new jobs in the state.
“If we get people working, then their employers’ insurance will cover them,” Deal said.
Fiserv, a financial services company, will be bringing 2,000 jobs to Alpharetta, the governor pointed out. North Fulton “is a magnet for tech jobs,” Deal said.
That is why the state is investing heavily in technical colleges. Georgia is a leader in technical training to provide high-tech employers with a quality workforce.
At one time, Georgia was the buckle on the textile belt. The state was a center for mills producing carpet and other industrial fibers.
“Just about every town in Georgia had mills turning out fibers, and employing workers,” Deal said. “But that industry was labor intensive, and it went overseas for cheaper labor. Those jobs are coming back to Georgia through new technology.”
Georgia is now a flooring leader using new technologies to expand beyond just carpeting. New plants in that industry have added 1,400 jobs.
Tax reform that allows more incentives to large companies has paid off as well, the governor said. Caterpillar would not have brought a new manufacturing plant from Japan to Athens without the new legislation, he said.
Another key factor was eliminating the energy tax in manufacturing – if local governments approved – that make it more attractive for companies to come to Georgia.
And just last week, State Farm announced plans to add 3,000 metro Atlanta jobs in a huge new campus planned for Dunwoody.
“That shows what local communities can do when we remove the barriers. They make things happen,” Deal said.
The state has moved forward to encourage dual enrollment, which allows students to take college-level courses that count toward their high school and college diplomas. Legislation was passed so that local high schools would not lose the funding for students enrolled in dual courses.
That money is now picked up by the Hope lottery funds.
Perhaps the biggest potential boost to Georgia’s economy is the expansion and deepening of the port of Savannah. Ideally, it will be timed to coincide with the Panama Canal’s expansion that will service the largest container ships in the world.
Savannah could be the first port of call for U.S.-bound cargo ships, but the port has to be ready to serve these super container ships. Deal said Congress has held up the money for the project despite having Georgia’s check for matching contribution already in the bank.
That has set the project back at least two years. The good news for Georgia is the Panamanians are at least one year behind – and Deal says they are likely being overly optimistic.
With I-16 leading out of Savannah to Macon and on to Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the state has the infrastructure to be the leading distribution center on the eastern seaboard.
“If Georgia is ready, we can off-load these new super containers directly into waiting trucks that will haul them to Atlanta. We plan to be ready,” Deal said.