Georgia keeps setting records for jobs created and investment in spite of the pandemic, Pat Wilson, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce on June 14.

Wilson, who lives with his family just south of the Perimeter in Sandy Springs, spoke at the chamber’s monthly luncheon, which was held at City Springs.

In 2021, the state had its best year ever to that point, with 33,400 job announcements and approximately $11 billion of investment. He said officials thought they’d never break that record. But through three quarters of this fiscal year, the state has had 35,000 jobs announced and $12.9 billion in investments in 251 new locations.

“Georgia’s economy is roaring, and the great thing about this is it is literally in every corner of the state,” Wilson said.

Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber President Robb Dillon speaks with Tom Wilson, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, at Tuesday’s luncheon. (Bob Pepalis)

Wilson said whether it’s Sandy Springs, Savannah or Dalton, something makes the community unique.

The thread that connects these communities is growing jobs, which can be in any area, including tourism, the arts, film business recruitment or international trade.

The economic impact of the state’s film tax credit was approximately $240 million annually when it was first created. In 2021, companies spent $4 billion in the film industry, he said. And 60,000 jobs in the state are connected to the industry.

He said inflation has affected investment. The investment dollars may be going up because companies worry about the workforce meeting their job demands, so they are automating more than ever.

“A project that generally in the past was 1,000 jobs and say $150 million investment is now 800 jobs and $300 million in investment,” Wilson said. More robotics are involved, which means skills required for jobs are higher and they pay more.

“Ultimately all of this works out for the benefit of Georgians while we recruited our foreign direct investment,” he said.

Foreign direct investment has been a backbone of Georgia’s job growth for a long time, he said, with Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom the top investors over time. But Japan fell out of the top 10 countries for investment for the first time in probably 25 years, he said. That is because Japan remains closed off due to COVID-19. He advised Sandy Springs business and city leaders to seek investment from Japan next year when he expects it to open back up.

“Korea is by far the hottest market that we’ve got going on,” he said.

When the fiscal year numbers come in after the end of this month, the addition of Hyundai and its suppliers will push its investment totals even higher.

“Korea is going to be our top investment country for the foreseeable future,” Wilson said.

 New companies coming to Georgia can benefit from the state’s Quick Start program through the Technical College System of Georgia. The program was created in 1968, Wilson said, and is available at no cost to qualified companies.

Quick Start helps upskill Georgians for the jobs that are available. When a company like Rivian is coming to the state, the program figures out how the company manufactures vehicles to create a curriculum for them to train the workers.

“And then while the plant is being built, we train the employees, and Day One when they turn on the machines, there is a workforce ready to step in and start running. It is an amazing program that, in my opinion, is what sets us apart from so many states,” he said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.