From Business & Economy

In Murray County, the Appalachian Port Is Opposed by Some, Supported by Others

Some Murray County residents aren’t convinced that the Appalachian Regional Port expected to open in 2018 won’t harm the north Georgia area more than it will help it, and a recent meeting with representatives of the Georgia Ports Authority and the CSX Railroad did little to allay their concerns, according to a report in the Dalton Daily Citizen:

During a recent meeting with residents of northern Murray County, officials with the Georgia Ports Authority vowed to work with them to ease any concerns they have about an inland port planned for the Crandall area, and to take steps to reduce its impact on that area.

“But we aren’t going to move it (the port) somewhere else,” said project manager John Trent. “I’m sorry. That just isn’t going to happen.”

About a half dozen citizens opposed to the port met at the Murray County courthouse annex with officials from the ports authority, CSX Transportation and Murray County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman.

Objections to the site of the port were raised back in September, with opponents citing concerns about the environment and noise pollution.

Meanwhile some citizens in Murray County have started a change.org petition in support of the port. Among the reasons cited to support the port in the petition are the possibility of increasing industry in the county, making goods, including carpet and tires, more competitive in the global market, and increasing the county’s tax base.

Report: NCAA Monitoring Future Host Cities for Civil Rights Protections

Based on a report in the Indianapolis Star, the NCAA will reconsider whether cities hosting future NCAA events have adequate civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. The issue is relevant to Georgia, with the legislature expected to consider Senate Bill 129, Georgia’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in the upcoming session. Georgia is scheduled to host the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in 2020, and a regional tournament in 2018. It is also scheduled to host a NCAA football semifinal in 2016, and the national championship game in 2018.

From the Star story:

Amid a national debate over civil rights protections based on sexual orientation, the Indianapolis-based NCAA apparently will reconsider sites already chosen to host its championships — including Indianapolis, the NCAA told The Indianapolis Star.

“We’ll continue to review current events in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites, such as Indianapolis,” Bob Williams, NCAA senior vice president for communications, wrote in an email statement Nov. 12.

Requests to speak to NCAA leaders for more information were denied.

The Star report notes that there are still many unanswered questions regarding what the NCAA would consider as adequate civil rights protection in a host city, or what criteria it might use to change tournament venues. While Atlanta has a local ordinance prohibiting some discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, LGBT advocates claim that the proposed RFRA bill could override that ordinance.

In any case, the report adds more weight to a study by the Atlanta Chamber and the Atlanta Convention and Vistiors Bureau announced this week that estimates between $1 and $2 billion in negative economic impact should SB 129 become law.

Economic Forecaster: Proposed Export Import Highway Could Have $20 Billion Economic Impact

The potential economic benefits of the proposed Georgia Export Import Highway were the subject of a talk by economic forecaster K.C. Conway at a recent lunch and learn hold by the Thomaston-Upson Chamber of Commerce. The Export Import Highway would be an extension of I-16 from Macon following the routes of GA-74 and GA-18 through Thomaston and Greenville, and ending at US 27 in LaGrange.

As reported in the Thomaston Times, Conway, who is a Vice-President of SunTrust Bank, touted the benefits of the highway, especially with the upcoming deepening of the Port of Savannah bringing additional container traffic, much of which will be shipped by truck.

“So when we come out of Savannah, we have the rail connections to get into the rail yards, but there is a big need for a lot of trucks moving, coming into Atlanta on I-75 and I-85. We’ll probably have complete gridlock on 75/85 south of I-285 within five years. Sometimes during the day we’re already there.

“The really important thing is with the export-import highway, we can bypass all of Atlanta and I-285 and bring the goods across to Cordele. Georgia is trying to create an inland port area there, which would be a magnet for every kind of industry you could imagine. We’ve also got airports along the route with runways long enough to make them into an airport reliever air cargo facility. So imagine the capacity of a Fed-Ex or UPS center. This would be a horizontal magnet that would bring all this industry here.

I think this highway would bring in $20 billion in economic impact, and probably 10,000 to 20,000 new real jobs.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the proposed highway would be the Kia plant in West Point. The road would provide easier access to the Savannah port, or to the inland port at Cordele, south of Macon on I-75. In addition to the 80 mile east west route, there have been proposals to create another bypass highway along the route of US 27, which would provide access to I-75 north of Atlanta. In addition to allowing freight to move north without entering the heart of the metro Atlanta area, it would provide access to the Peach State’s new inland port in Murray County.

Georgia Ranked Number One for the Third Time by Site Selection Magazine

For the third year in a row, Site Selection Magazine has rated Georgia as the state with the best business climate in the country, outranking other top five finishers North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. The story quotes Governor Nathan Deal saying that the Peach State’s business tax policy and workforce development programs make it a welcoming business location. In a prepared statement, the governor touted the state’s achievement:

Once again, Georgia has been named the top state in which to do business, reflecting our success in strengthening Georgia’s economic environment and creating a top-notch workforce. Through collaborative public-private sector efforts, we have created hundreds of thousands of jobs for families, invested millions in our local communities and improved the overall quality of life for our citizens. This ranking is not only a testament to our strong business climate, but it also speaks to the commitment and support from our industry partners, communities and the people of Georgia.

In addition to education and tax policy, the Site Selection story notes Georgia’s appeal to the movie and entertainment industry, which contributed over $6 billion to the state’s economy in FY 2015.

Gov. Deal says a key lure is “permanency for the film industry, such as the Pinewood Studio in Fayette County and multi-million-dollar investments in capital projects of that nature. Those are not projects that are going to pick up and go somewhere else.” Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta has five sound stages, a post-production facility, theatre and other production assets. Raleigh Studios Atlanta has four sound stages, mill space, a cyclorama and other production features. On the drawing board is a 5 million sq. ft. (464515 sq. m.) Atlanta Media Campus & Studios being planned by Jim Jacoby on a site in Gwinnett County.

“Georgia is one of the fastest-growing entertainment production centers in the world with 42 productions currently filming across the state,” said Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). “More than 100 new businesses have relocated or expanded in Georgia to support the industry — creating jobs for Georgians as well as economic opportunities for our communities and small businesses — ensuring Georgia’s place in the industry well into the future.”

Looking at individual components of the magazine’s ranking, Georgia was ranked #2 by executives surveyed for the story, #2 in 2015 new plant rankings through August, third in a tax index for mature firms, and sixth in the tax index for new firms.

Could Georgia pull out a fourth win when the 2016 rankings are released a year from now? The story lists several things to watch in Georgia, including IT financial services, cybersecurity, software and technology, and automotive products.

Updated: On House Floor, Rep. Buddy Carter Urges Passage of Export Import Bank

Update: The bill passed, 313-118. A majority of the Republican conference voted in favor, 127-117, with three not voting. 186 Democrats voted in favor, one against, and one not voting. Reps. Buddy Carter and Rob Woodall, along with all of Georgia’s Democratic delegation voted in favor, while the remainder of the Republicans voted no. Here is the complete results of the vote.

After the vote, Rep. Carter, whose 1st District includes the Savannah area, issued this statement:

Failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank puts thousands of jobs in the First District, and across the nation, in jeopardy and puts Georgian and American companies at a dangerous disadvantage against our global competitors. In the First District, the Ex-Im Bank facilitates exports for 17 companies resulting in $501 million in exports and 3,208 jobs. With the recent expiration of the Ex-Im Bank, many of these companies have suffered the loss of millions of dollars in new business growth and market access. I supported reauthorization today because I refuse to sit idly as these jobs, and many others, are lost due to Washington’s failure to act.

Noting that the legislation passed today contains several reforms compared to the previous authorization of the bank, Carter said,

While I would like to see additional reforms, the Bank has been expired for too long and irreparable damage has been caused on American jobs and American job creators. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and thousands more are being put in jeopardy while business contracts are going to our foreign competitors each day Congress fails to act. The legislation passed in the House today is essential to protecting these jobs and letting the world know America is open for business.

For his part, Congressman Woodall, whose 7th district includes portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, issued the following statement:

Growing American jobs remains priority number one, and remaining competitive in a global economy is vitally important to sustaining and creating those jobs here at home. As the world markets become increasingly competitive, it is our family members, friends, and neighbors who pay the price when international commerce becomes more difficult for local businesses. The world wants what America makes. Unfortunately, selling those goods overseas often requires the support of an Export Credit Agency (ECA) such as the Ex-Im Bank. If American manufacturers can’t check that box, then they can’t even get a seat at the bidding table to pitch their products. F‎ailure to reform and reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank leaves our domestic producers with only two options: miss out on willing buyers or move their manufacturing facilities and jobs overseas and pursue financing eligibility from another nation’s ECA. The decision to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank guarantees that America’s manufacturers have a seat at the table and that America’s workers have a family paycheck.

By including significant reforms in this bill that will increase overall lending to small businesses, prohibit discrimination based on industry or sector, and mandate extensive financial audits of the Ex-Im bank, we take an important step toward prioritizing the responsible use of taxpayer dollars. However, we should begin work today pursuing a level playing field through trade compacts that eliminate the use of ECA’s globally and lead global markets to a free market system that we all know works.

The legislation now moves to the Senate. Earlier, the Export Import Bank was approved as part of a separate vote on the Senate’s version of the highway bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he opposes the measure as a standalone bill.

Read more

How Religious Liberty Legislation and Export Import Bank Votes Will Affect GE’s Possible Relocation to Atlanta

A story originally written for North Carolina’s Triangle Business Journal and republished in the Atlanta Business Chronicle provides some insight on where General Electric could end up moving itz corporate headquarters from the perspective of a site selection consultant. In addition to Atlanta and the Research Triangle area of Raleigh-Durham, the conglomerate is considering Charlotte and Jacksonville, along with a new facility in New York close to its current Fairfield, Connecticut headquarters.

According to John Boyd, who is a principal at corporate headquarters consultancy The Boyd Company, there are three key factors that GE is likely considering as they approach their decision: airport location, the presence of related industries or talent, and politics.

For Atlanta, Hartsfield Jackson Airport makes the first consideration easy, especially with its nonstop flights to both domestic and international locations. GE recently sold most of its GE Capital financing arm, and is focusing on its traditional strength in manufacturing, and is increasing its growing software business. The presence of Georgia Tech, NCR, and the coming Mercedes Benz move to Sandy Springs all speak well for the Atlanta metro area as a headquarters site.

Boyd broke the politics affecting the decision down to several areas. The first concern is tax policy and possible tax credits. Connecticut’s corporate tax structure is one factor in GE deciding to relocate. The second major factor may be a bit of a surprise:

Something he [Boyd] sees as prohibitive in these types of closed-door location discussions is social policy.

“You don’t want your state to be a headline,” he says, pointing to Angie’s List’s decision not to pursue a $40 million expansion in Indianapolis over controversial legislation.

When Georgia’s legislature returns in January, it is widely expected to consider SB 129, Georgia’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which business leaders, including the Georgia Chamber will take a more active role in opposing, according to Jim Galloway’s column in Sunday’s AJC. The legislature is also expected to consider a Pastor Protection Act proposal from Speaker David Ralston. And Sen. Josh McKoon indicated over the summer he wants to introduce a state version of a First Amendment Defense Act. Read more

Once Again, Georgia Is Ranked Number One for Doing Business

For the second year in a row and the fourth time overall, Area Development Magazine named Georgia the top state for doing business. Other states in the top ten include Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Louisiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

Based on consultants’ rankings, the Peach State was number one for labor climate, and second for overall infrastructure and global access, behind Tennessee. Georgia was number three for business climate, behind Texas and South Carolina. The magazine summarized Georgia’s attractiveness to businesses this way:

It is not surprising to see Georgia rank as the Top State for Doing Business. Georgia places strong in overall cost of doing business and has a diverse workforce. Millennials are now driving the workforce equation, and their decision to call Southern States home has had a positive impact on the corporate and tech sector growth throughout the region. The Georgia difference has been that its longstanding corporate citizens have become team players in economic development. Georgia has built a playbook to bring business leaders to the forefront of economic development, and this collaboration of the private and public sectors has wooed companies such as NCR and Newell Rubbermaid.

In addition to economic development efforts, Georgia offers a highly educated labor market, affordable housing and office space, and access to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. The city of Atlanta sits at the intersection of three major interstate highways, with robust railroad access and the fourth-largest shipping container port just a few hours away in Savannah. This mobility makes the state attractive for all asset types.

The magazine warned, however that competing states are catching on to Georgia’s playbook, copying the cooperation provided by state government and the state’s workforce development efforts.

In Murray County, Some Object to Construction of the Appalachian Regional Port

Back in July, we told you about plans to construct an inland port in Murray County that would allow freight transported north from Savannah by rail to be offloaded to trucks, which would then transport it to the final destination. The inland port was touted as a way of removing 50,000 trucks from the interstates around Atlanta once the facility opened.

While the port is likely to be endorsed by anyone who has sat in northbound traffic in Henry County, there is a group of Murray County residents who are dead set against it, according to a report from Chattanooga’s WTVC.

In the last two weeks the group’s organizer Rhonda Kazmierski says the petition has gotten about 400 signatures online and in writing combined.

“We immediately began to take steps to prevent this port from coming into our county,” Kazmierski says, “There are so many other places that this port would be suitable for.”

Thursday, Kazmierski and a group of protesters put up signs in opposition of the new project.

“Just because they have a memorandum of agreement does not mean that this is a done deal,” Kazmierski says. “There are several steps that still are going to have to go through in order to place this port here.

A change.org petition has gotten 127 supporters as of Friday morning. The petition cites concerns including additional traffic, pollution, health risks and “increase in criminal element” as reasons to oppose construction of the port.

While it promises congestion relief to metro Atlanta commuters, Murray County residents will also benefit from the port, according to a July Question and Answer Facebook post by Murray County. In it, the county estimates the port will bring 20 jobs to the northwest Georgia county. The county also hopes that construction of the port will mean that Highway 411, which will carry truck traffic before it gets to I-75 will be widened from two to four lanes. There’s also the prospect of bringing new businesses to the county that want to be close to the port.

Question: Have there been any businesses approaching Murray County because of this port?

Answer: Yes! Due to confidentiality agreements, we cannot disclose more details than that, but absolutely! We are incredibly excited about the developments already taking place, and we look forward to sharing them with you once they’re finalized.

Barring a successful effort from those who shout, “Not in my back yard,” the Appalachian Regional Port is expected to open in 2018.

Southern Company Purchasing AGL Resources

Everything may be terrible for investors on Wall Street and in China today, but for two companies with Georgia roots, today is a winner. From Reuters:

Power producer Southern Co said it would buy AGL Resources Inc for about $8 billion in cash, making it the No. 2 U.S. utility by customers after Exelon Corp.

The combined company will have generation capacity of about 46 gigawatts and will operate nearly 200,000 miles of electric lines and more than 80,000 miles of gas pipelines.

The deal will form a company with 11 regulated electric and natural gas distribution companies serving about 9 million customers, Southern Co said.

The news has already drawn attention down at the Gold Dome. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle released this statement:

This announcement is a good deal for the Southern Company, AGL Resources, and the State of Georgia. The increasing role played by our nation’s natural gas resources in the generation of electric energy has created an opportunity for both companies to work together to drive lower costs and increased efficiency. Most importantly, the fact that two great Georgia companies are joining forces means that thousands of jobs will remain in Georgia today, and a significant number of new jobs will grow in the future. Having both companies remain in our state is great news, and I congratulate the leadership teams and employees of both organizations.

Is this a winner for consumers, for Wall Street? Both? Neither? Tell us in the comments.

Mayor Reed Goes to Bat for Trade Promotion Authority

A month ago, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson delivered the weekly Republican address, extolling the benefits of Trade Promotion Authority, a set of ground rules for negotiating a trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership with several Asian nations. The issue has come under fire from both the left and the right, with some Republicans concerned that it would give too much power to President Obama, and many Democrats concerned that the trade deal might cost American jobs.

Now, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been enlisted by the president to help push the case for TPA. Politico has the details:

The lawmakers who are planning to vote no just don’t get it, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an interview. He and other mayors like San Francisco’s Ed Lee and Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti are out in their communities every day and know that a new rush of imports and exports will transform their ports and local manufacturing bases.

“If I’m talking about an issue, if Ed Lee’s talking about an issue, Mayor Garcetti’s talking about an issue, if mayors across the country are talking about this, I think we have a different level of credibility than many folks in Washington,” Reed said.

Reed said he’s headed soon to Los Angeles to meet with Garcetti and divvy up a list of phone calls to members of Congress.

“We have a list of congressional members who are opposed, we have a list of those that haven’t made their opinion known, and we will break up that list based on who has the personal relationships with members,” Reed said of his plan with Garcetti.

As the Politico story points out, the alliance between President Obama and big city mayors makes sense, given that those cities are represented in Congress by many of the Democrats that are opposed to TPA. Indeed, here in Georgia, Reps. John Lewis, Hank Johnson and David Scott are on the record as opposing giving the president the authority to negotiate a trade deal.

The effort may have a special significance for Mayor Reed. The Atlanta mayor has been vocal in supporting many of President Obama’s initiatives, and has made several appearances on the Sunday TV talk shows as a surrogate for the administration. The mayor also invested political capital promoting the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project in Washington. The Port of Savannah would be a likely winner in any deal that increased imports and exports between the United States and Asia. And city-owned Hartsfield-Jackson Airport offers direct flights to Asia, a possible benefit to the city and Georgia should a trade agreement end up being approved.

That approval is still up in the air. The Senate passed TPA just before the Memorial Day recess. The House could take up the measure as soon as next week. And even if Trade Promotion Authority passes and a final version of the Trans Pacific Partnership is negotiated by the administration, it would be subject to a 60 day review period, and an up or down vote in Congress before it could take effect.

AOL Co-Founder Steve Case Visits Atlanta Today To Celebrate Entrepreneurship

512px-Steve_case_05092009Steve Case, co-founder of AOL (remember them?) will be in Atlanta today as part of a road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship and give a cool $100 Grand to some lucky start-up. All this is part of the “Rise Of The Rest Road Trip.”

Here’s more information about the tour from Case’s visit to Charlotte yesterday.

Eight Charleston area startups will be showing their stuff this week as they vie for a big investment from an Internet search pioneer.

The local firms will deliver their best business pitches at a competition Wednesday on board the aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant.

They’ll all be gunning for a $100,000 infusion from AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Case, who now heads up Revolution, a venture capital firm based in Washington, D.C., picked Charleston as one of the stops on his five-city “Rise of the Rest Road Trip.” He’s also scheduled to visit Atlanta, New Orleans, Raleigh and Richmond.

Case will hold a Fireside Chat at 2 PM. The Pitch Competition will take place at 3 PM and a Happy Hour will commence at 5. All events take place at the Opera Nightclub 1150 Cresent Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30309. Free tickets are required and are available through their website.

Senator Isakson Explains Benefits of Trade Promotion Authority in Weekly GOP Address

Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson Takes on a sensitive issue for both Republicans and Democrats in this week’s Republican Address. In it he promotes the benefits of free trade in Asia, and explains why Congress should pass Trade Promotion Authority, a measure that’s seen vital to ensure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with Japan.

Trade promotion authority is a hot button issue on both sides of the political aisle. Some Republicans are concerned that the bill gives too much power to President Obama, while Democrats, including those in Georgia, are bucking their own president because of populist and labor union concerns that the measure will cost jobs. While the measure is expected to pass the Senate later this month, there is some fear that the measure might not pass in the House, which would prove to be a major embarrassment for the president.

For his part, Senator Isakson is in favor of TPA, and its ability to bring jobs to Georgia and the U.S. “Trade promotion authority is good for America” Isakson said in a statement. “It’s good for our country and it’s good for our economy. And it’s good for middle-class American families who will reap the benefits of more jobs.”

A full transcript of the address is below the fold. Read more

Hatin’ On Delta? Not So Much.

Maria Saporta is upset. She’s upset that the Legislature removed a tax exemption airlines, like Atlanta based Delta, receive on the purchase of jet fuel.

No one company and no one executive was treated more disrespectfully during the 2015 legislative session than Delta and Anderson.
His crime?

He had the audacity to speak his mind about what he thought was in the best interest of Georgia’s economic future.

As the 2014 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Anderson felt obligated – as have our best business leaders have over the past many decades – to speak out for inclusion.

In the 1960s, Atlanta business leaders spoke out for tolerance and acceptance of racial integration.

And in today’s environment, Anderson urged the state to be welcoming to people from all over the world by having a less restrictive immigration policy and to steer away from social legislation – the religious freedom bill – that could be seen as discriminating against gays and lesbians.
Both those positions would make Georgia more economically competitive.

And as part of his swan song as Chamber chair, Anderson told state legislators they must be willing to raise taxes to meet the transportation infrastructure needs in the state.

(Guess what, that’s what they ended up doing – but never mind the facts).

Saporta goes on to say that Rep. Earl Ehrhart should be defeated for introducing legislation to end the jet fuel tax exemption. Ehrhart’s version of the legislation didn’t pass, but Saporta stills thinks he should be defeated. She does not think however, that those who supported the legislation that actually took away Delta’s tax credit should be defeated or taken to task.

Let’s set aside hurt feelings and look at this issue in a different light.

When Delta was in bankruptcy the sales tax on jet fuel was removed in order to help them. When I came to the Legislature in 2011, we voted to renew the exemption and phase it out over three years. When the exemption expired, it was renewed and made permanent.

As you all know, this year the need for more transportation funding was moved to the top of the priority list. Many people, myself included, thought we should look at removing special tax exemptions and appropriate that money to infrastructure. To that end, I co-sponsored Rep. Chuck Martin’s bill to end the electric vehicle tax credit and Rep. Ehrhart’s bill to end the jet fuel tax exemption. I also voted against a number of new tax exemptions, such as exemptions for historic districts, zoos, amusement parks, and the building material tax credit Jessica mentioned. It doesn’t seem fair to me for the Legislature to hand out special tax credits and exemptions for some, while at the same time raising the excise tax on motor fuel. Indeed, ending the electric vehicle tax credit and the jet fuel sales tax exemption were included in the final version of the transportation funding act. I wish the bill had ended many more special exemptions the state hands out. For that and other reasons, I voted against the transportation funding bill.

Saporta also complains that the tax on jet fuel will not be spent on transportation. True, jet fuel sales taxes are not put into a dedicated fund like excise taxes on motor fuel, but the state spends other money on airport maintenance which after three years, as specified in the transportation fund act bill, can be then used for transportation through the appropriations process.

I didn’t take it personally when Anderson (joined by other CEO’s and Chambers of Commerce) said that folks like me who support the religious freedom bills were promoting bigoty. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if he thinks that about me he is wrong.

Delta is universally recognized as a valuable company to Georgia. Removing a special sales tax exemption it enjoys is not a slap in the face, nor should it be perceived as one.

Mercedes Benz Announces Sandy Springs Location

Mercedes Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon presents Governor Nathan Deal with a model of the company's S Class sedan.  Photo: Jon Richards
Mercedes Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon presents Governor Nathan Deal with a model of the company’s
S Class sedan. Photo: Jon Richards
In a State Capitol press conference, Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr, Metro Atlanta Chamber President Hala Moddelmog and Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul welcomed Mercedes Benz Chairman Steve Cannon to Georgia. Cannon announced the company had selected a location in Sandy Springs for its headquarters.

Saying it was a place in which the company’s employees could diversify and spread out across the area, Cannon said Atlanta was the company’s unanimous choice for a new location. He said Atlanta in general and Sandy Springs in particular had all the things they were looking for, including a strong business environment, high quality of life, infrastructure and good schools.

The company chose a site with 12 acres at the intersection of Georgia 400 and Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs. The 12 acres is part of a larger surrounding parcel, which will likely become a live-work-play community. Cannon mentioned the site had roadways, transit, and sidewalks, pointing out that it was likely some of his employees would eventually walk to work.

Mercedes Benz to Atlanta: Incentives and Location

After Mercedes Benz announced its plans to relocate from Montvale, New Jersey to Atlanta two weeks ago, the speculation began for the reason why. In the end, it appears that the move, which will bring more than 800 jobs to north Fulton County, came as a result of incentives offered the company and metro Atlanta’s location and proximity to Mercedes’ business and business partners.

Let’s start with incentives. According to the Detroit News, the total incentive package offered by the Georgia Department of Economic development amounted to $24,540 per job, or $23.3 million. That number assumes 950 new jobs, slightly more than the initial workforce Mercedes is expected to bring, but certainly within reason. The incentives offered do not include anything from Fulton County, so the total offered may actually be higher, with some sources claiming a number between $40 and $50 million.

But, incentives aren’t everything. That brings us to location. Georgia is already home to Kia in West Point, and the Port of Brunswick, a key transshipment location for vehicles between the U.S. and overseas. Mercedes has a plant a few hours away in Alabama. And Hartsfield-Jackson Airport offers direct flights to and from Stuttgart, the company’s German home.

Another reason is the concentration of automotive suppliers in metro Atlanta, according to Autoblog:

Increasingly, Atlanta has emerged as the capital of this automotive region. Croteau says there are approximately 250 auto-related companies that operate in its vicinity that employ more than 20,000 people and the Center for Automotive Research says Georgia overall has more than 70,000 auto-related jobs throughout the state. Beyond the big names of GM, Porsche and now Mercedes-Benz, it’s suppliers that make up the bulk of the operations.

“We’ve seen tremendous activity from suppliers,” [Tom Croteau, deputy commissioner of global commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development] said. “When we look at our portfolio of projects that are active and moving, it’s sometime as high as 40 percent that are coming out of the auto industry or related in some way. Maybe it’s a company that’s both autos and aerospace or a plastics company, but it’s a remarkably high percentage over the past year-and-a-half or two years. So right now, the automotive industry is paramount to us, and we’re paying more attention than ever.”

The Center for Automotive Research study cited in the quote cites Georgia’s workforce development training programs and the alignment of training programs with the needs of employers as a reason so many automotive suppliers are located in the metro Atlanta area.

Comparison of the cost of living between New Jersey and Fulton County.  credit: NorthJersey.com
Comparison of the cost of living between New Jersey and Fulton County. credit: NorthJersey.com
For Mercedes’ employees, the headquarters location, expected to be in the Sandy Springs area of North Fulton County, offers its own amenities. According to Autoblog, younger employees can live in Atlanta, while those wishing to raise a family can live outside the Perimeter. And, as the graphic from NorthJersey.com points out, the cost of living in Fulton is much lower than that of Bergen County, Mercedes’ former home.

One must wonder, however, if the editors at Autoblog were highlighting a potential issue with moving to the Peach State when they included this picture in their story. It’s the “Walking Dead” view of downtown Atlanta seen as you approach the city on Freedom Parkway at the Jackson Street bridge, apparently taken during last year’s snowmageddon.