Georgia saw strong enough economic growth over the past year despite the devastating COVID-19 pandemic to land recognition as the top state in the country to do business per an industry magazine, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday.
It’s the seventh consecutive year Georgia nabbed “Top State for Doing Business” status from the magazine Area Development, which focuses on economic development projects. Kemp has also previously touted a similar distinction of top-business state several years running by Site Selection Magazine.
The governor is poised to trumpet the accolade as proof of Georgia’s continued economic recovery after being battered by coronavirus and as evidence of business success under his leadership ahead of an upcoming reelection campaign in 2022.
“After all of these years, it’s abundantly clear that Georgia remains the epicenter for job growth, economic development and investment because of strong conservative leadership,” Kemp said at a news conference Tuesday.
While coronavirus-prompted closures hammered local service industries, Georgia still managed to drum up more than $7.4 billion in new investments stemming from around 350 development projects since July of 2019, Kemp noted.
With more than 24,000 jobs created during that stretch, Georgia also saw a 30% bump in jobs created outside metro Atlanta since last July, highlighting the governor’s emphasis on stimulating economic growth in more rural parts of the state.
But Georgia still carries a high unemployment rate at 7.4% with roughly 378,000 out-of-work Georgians due to the impacts of COVID-19, though that figure does fall below the national unemployment rate of 10.2% as of July.
Georgia also continues to see a concerning number of people testing positive for coronavirus, though the state’s positivity rate, seven-day rolling average and hospitalizations have all fallen over the past month following a spike from the Memorial Day and July Fourth holiday weekends.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 272,000 people had tested positive in Georgia for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 5,733 Georgians.
Georgia Democratic leaders were quick to pan Kemp’s announcement Tuesday, calling it a diversion tactic as thousands of Georgians remain out of work and people continue falling sick to COVID-19.
“Working families don’t need Kemp’s self-congratulations,” said Maggie Chambers, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “They need real leadership to get this virus under control so that Georgians can get back to work safely.”
Ahead of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, Kemp urged Georgians to wear masks, wash hands and limit gathering sizes to promote virus-fighting social distancing.
“Let’s don’t have a Memorial Day bump after Labor Day weekend,” Kemp said. “Let’s don’t have a July Fourth bump. … Let’s try to avoid that spike.”
Kemp joined local leaders and state Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson outside a newly built Amazon warehouse in Gwinnett County to make the announcement Tuesday.
The new 640,000-square-foot facility will feature the company’s first robotics center in Georgia and is set to open before the end of the year.
“We look forward to being part of the fabric of Gwinnett County and the local community,” said Robert Packett, Amazon’s southeastern regional operations director.