COVINGTON, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp took the stage Thursday at Bridgestone Golf in Covington to announce Georgia was once again ranked the best state for business.
The announcement was record-breaking, as the Peach State was named No. 1 for business climate for an eighth straight year by Site Selection magazine.
“I’m so proud that the great state of Georgia has earned this top business distinction for a record-setting eight years, and it is an honor to accept this award from Site Selection magazine,” Kemp said. “Our top-notch workforce development programs and pro-business environment, along with our strong logistics infrastructure, have further solidified the Peach State as the best place in the nation to live, work, and raise a family. I thank our partners in both the public and private sectors, and the hardworking Georgians who helped us shatter our own record with this unprecedented achievement.”
In 2019, Georgia originally broke the record set previously by North Carolina with seven straight years as No. 1.
Kemp announced the news on the heels of a tour of Bridgestone Golf in Covington — which the governor referred to as a “hidden gem” — as the greatest golfers world teed off at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, only a few miles down the road. The announcement also came days after renowned golfers Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau announced their contract extensions to continue using Covington-made balls.
“I was talking to the team earlier this morning — there’s an article today about how far Bryson’s hitting the ball now on the tour,” Kemp said. “And I was assured that it was because of the golf ball.”
Despite “challenging times,” Kemp said he was proud of the work Bridgestone and other businesses were able to do in Georgia, and he credited the state’s success in wake of the pandemic to the state’s “measured approach.”
"On the economic side, our measured approach to the pandemic — fighting for lives and fighting for livelihoods— has put us in a really good spot … but we cannot rest on our laurels,” Kemp said. “Our unemployment rate is under that national average. We’re very excited that since the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, we’ve announced the creation of more than 11,800 jobs and over $4.3 billion of new investments. That’s up 56% in investments and 45% in jobs over the incredible year that we had last year.
“During 2020 legislative session, we were able to avoid massive budget cuts and continue to prioritize education health care and public safety,” he continued. “And thanks to (a) measured and successful reopening, we’ve been able to maintain our AAA bond rating, and we don’t see a need for across-the-board cuts this coming year.”
Site Selection magazine is an internationally circulated business publication covering corporate real estate and economic development. The publication’s rankings were 50% based on an index of seven criteria and 50% on the input received from a survey of independent site location experts who were asked to rank states based on their recent project experiences. This year, Georgia shared the top spot with North Carolina.
In a survey published with the rankings, workforce skills were the most important criteria to site selectors for the fifth consecutive year, with workforce development programs coming in second place. Transportation infrastructure, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures, along with state and local taxes, completed the top five issues of importance to the process.
“In the case for Georgia … I asked (Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson) ‘What are you doing that’s so successful?’” said Mark Arend, editor in chief of Site Selection. “And he said, ‘You know, it’s not about doing anything differently. It’s about doing what we do, better.’ And I believe that’s very true.”
Wilson said “doing things the right way” was key to the state’s success.
“Whether entering or expanding in Georgia, it’s our goal to give every company we work with the peace of mind they need to know that they will have a long-term partner in the state,” Wilson said. “I want to thank Governor Kemp, Speaker David Ralston, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, and our General Assembly for the consistent leadership that gives us a competitive edge and the support that helps our entire state find success.”
Wilson also expressed his thanks to the Newton County Industrial Development Authority and the city of Covington for their efforts.
“You guys do a great job. And I think the support that you see around Bridgestone really is a great example of that. But there’s growth going on all over this community,” Wilson said. “David Bernd, Serra Hall — the team here is fantastic.”
To commemorate the achievement, Bridgestone Golf President and CEO Dan Murphy presented the governor a golf bag and First Lady Marty Kemp a personalized set of balls.