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Belton: Georgia continues on the right track
Dave Belton

Wow! Things are really going great in Georgia.

It’s hard to remember, but Georgia was the very last (and the very smallest) of the original 13 colonies. Gov. Oglethorpe started with only 120 farmers – liberated from debtor’s prisons – to protect the wealthiest colonial city (Charleston) from the Spanish in Florida. The colony grew very slowly and remained tiny for many years; in fact, by the start of the Revolutionary War, her population of 24,000 was eight times smaller than half of the other colonies and 19 times smaller than Virginia. The state didn’t reach a million people until the Civil War, and only added another million every 40 years or so.

What a difference we have today! Under Gov. Deal, Georgia has grown by a million people every four years – from 8.2 million to 10.5 million – from the 10th to the eighth largest state in the nation. Adding almost 750,000 jobs, he lowered the unemployment rate from 10.5 to a record low 4 percent. He increased manufacturing by 12 percent and catapulted the once non-existent movie industry into a $10 billion enterprise. We’ve maintained the second best bond rating in the US for the last 20 years, and for the only time in any state’s history we are the Best State in the Nation to do Business In for five years in a row.

Most of the growth, of course, is around Atlanta. She is now the seventh largest economy in the US and the 18th largest in the world, churning out $65 billion every year and earning her the title of an “Alpha City”. She hosted the College Football Championship last year, the Super Bowl this year, the Final Four next year, and is now the fourth busiest convention city in the nation.

Transportation will always be Atlanta’s biggest asset. That’s why I’m so glad Georgia was just ranked the second best state for infrastructure. We have the biggest airport in the world, the fourth busiest port in the nation at Savannah, and we’re paving more roads than any state in the nation.

Workforce development continues to be our biggest challenge, which is why the recent gains our teachers have earned are so important. For the first time ever, Georgia beats the nation in both the SAT and the ACT, and we’re 13th best in college Advanced Placement tests. Even better, the graduation rate has skyrocketed by 26 percent to a best ever 81 percent. Governor Deal’s Dual Enrollment program has been wildly successful, his Quick Start program is ranked the No. 1 program in the nation, and his new HOPE Career Grant covers the full ride of 17 different high-paying careers that don’t need a college degree. There is literally no reason any Georgian cannot start a new career, because the training required in 20 career fields is absolutely FREE with a job placement rate of 99 percent.

The conservative leadership and business-friendly environment that Governor Deal has created has made Georgia the envy of the South. Let’s hope we can continue his fantastic legacy in the coming years.

Belton is a Republican from District 112, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.