Georgia’s Competitiveness; Problems Vs. Perceptions

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

CNBC, the cable business news network, has released their annual ranking for “America’s Top States For Business”.  In this assessment of best business climates, Georgia ranked a healthy 9th.  Texas was ranked #1, with Virginia #3 and North Carolina #4 as the only other southern states in the top 10. 

Other contiguous states which Georgia’s elected officials keep bending our laws to match theirs under the guise of “competitiveness” ranked as 16th (Tennessee), 29th (Florida), 32nd (South Carolina) and 38th (Alabama).

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of their study was the individual components of the rankings.  Georgia was ranked #1 overall on workforce, defined as quality and availability of workers and state programs available to train workers.  Factors included education level, number of available workers, and union membership.

On the surface it would appear that this contradicts messages being put out by “Go Build Georgia” highlighting shortages of Georgia workers but it does not.  Georgia’s relatively high unemployment rate indicates we have an oversupply of workers relative to available jobs, and programs like Go Build Georgia are expanding training opportunities to get the right skills to people that need them for employers that will hire them.

Despite the “We can’t wait!” hysterics of the pro-TSPLOST campaigns, Georgia ranks 3rd in transportation and infrastructure. There are clearly needed improvements in Georgia’s transportation grid, especially in the metro Atlanta area.  The high ranking indicates that the business community’s perception of Georgia’s overall road, rail, air, and port network work together well, as evidenced by the number of logistics jobs that continue to be generated within the state.

Several years ago when Mercedes-Benz was having quality issues with several of their cars, the CEO was asked to reflect on that as well as a consumer survey indicating automobile shoppers rated their cars among the highest in quality, despite actual metrics showing they had hit a rough patch.  His answer was along the lines of “Think goodness we only have an actual problem with quality, as that is a problem we can troubleshoot and fix. Public perception is a much harder problem to resolve.”

Georgia’s transportation ranking demonstrates that among the business community and the financial press, Georgia does not have a perception of transportation problems.  You can also bet that when firms are being recruited to Georgia, prospects are not shown the same dire warnings regarding traffic that the same Chambers of Commerce are using to scare voters into a 16% tax increase.

One may conclude that while all can acknowledge that there is clearly a need for improvement with regards to transportation infrastructure, there is also time to continue to work on a “Plan B” before the actual problem becomes a problem of perception.

Perhaps one of the more dire warning signs in the list includes Georgia’s rankings for Education (34th) and Quality of Life (36th).  Georgia’s below average ranking on education will limit the quality of businesses and jobs that the state can attract.  Cutting edge industries need a highly educated pool of workers to attract from.  If not available locally via the state’s education system, then they must be willing to relocate here.  A Quality of Life score in the bottom third of all states makes recruitment of top talent harder to do.

Georgia’s crime rate, access to health care, air and water quality, and local attractions were used to create the Quality of Life Ranking.  While I’m sure many will argue that building a new Falcons stadium will increase our score because of local attractions, leaders probably should spend a bit more time studying rural health care delivery and urban crime rates.

Overall, Georgia is in good standing, and public policy should not be determined solely on one outside media ranking.  That said, it gives us a decent snapshot of where our perception as a state stands with our peers.

As for our problems, those are perhaps a different matter.  Solutions are even more difficult.  But it does beg the question if we’re spending the right amount of time fixing the real problems with Georgia’s competitiveness, or the ones that we have created the perception of problems among ourselves.

9 comments

  1. While CNBC does a good job of telling me the current price of Bank of America stock, I don’t need their help telling me that my commute stucks and my only option is to waste over an hour of each day in the car chatting on the phone (if I’m lucky and can find someone to talk to).

  2. Engineer says:

    You guys want to jump all over this news story (this is the 3rd or 4th thread that references this listing in the past 2 days), yet nobody is willing to say or show where they got their rankings from.

  3. wicker says:

    “One may conclude that while all can acknowledge that there is clearly a need for improvement with regards to transportation infrastructure, there is also time to continue to work on a “Plan B” before the actual problem becomes a problem of perception.”

    The opposition to T-SPLOST are not interested in Plan B. Their interest is stopping a tax increase and not funding rail, especially MARTA. They may have some sort of conceptual idea of a Plan B (meaning mostly highways and mostly suburban projects) but if you are expecting any of them to put in the effort to come up with a workable, comprehensive plan or the political capital to get it enacted, you are dealing with the wrong group. They will just celebrate their victory over taxes, spending, big government, social engineering, wealth redistribution, etc. and move on to the next item on the conservative takedown list. Those folks aren’t going to do anything about economic development because they are convinced that the way to create jobs is to cut taxes (which are already very low in Georgia), deregulate (again very low in Georgia), oppose the unions (Georgia is a right to work state) and drill baby drill (no oil in Georgia!) because that is the national GOP agenda, and these folks aren’t interested in coming up with policy ideas of their own.

    And being #1 on this CNBC list is one thing. I am more interested in where Georgia is ranked in actually adding jobs, and the trend lines in those areas.

  4. bgsmallz says:

    Rural health care? Remember, our ‘leaders’ already solved that problem. They gave us a constitutional amendment on trauma care that we rejected and have washed their hands of it in the name of ‘no tax’ pledges. T-Splost may very well be the sequel.

    However, if you chose to use the CNBC rankings, you need to actually point out a few ‘fun’ facts….

    1) We have fallen from 4th to 9th. That’s a 125% decline.
    2) We are behind Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina.
    3) We are at or below average in 8 of the 10 categories.

    From my vantage point, it looks like our ‘peers’ see Georgia as a great place to ship your goods through and to recruit workers from….I’m not sure that is really a good picture at all.

    • Jackster says:

      Actually, for rural healthcare, i would have pointed to the federal grants the GHA and DCH are administring which is supposed to go to enhance HIEs and telehealth centers.

      The idea here is that by building an infrastructure for telehealth, the physicians can then bill for the services as an extension of the facility which referred the patient & using the HIE (as infrastructure).

      Other states have done well with this model: I would point to South Dakota as one, as they are a helluva lot more rural than we’ll ever be.

  5. saltycracker says:

    Don’t forget our attention to the arts (orginal cost est. $1.3 mil., now $4 mil)

    By Kelly Yamanouchi
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials won an important City Council committee vote Wednesday for a plan to spend nearly $4 million on a single art installation in an underground airport walkway.

    The long-delayed project to turn the 450-foot corridor between Concourses A and B into a virtual forest with simulated sunbeams, birds, fireflies and a rainstorm would be the most expensive piece of art at the airport.

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