Cagle: Georgia could become ‘Silicon Valley of the South’
by Wes Mayer
Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle was the guest speaker at the Newnan Rotary Club luncheon on Friday, and he shared his optimistic views on the future of Georgia.
Cagle began his talk saying how thrilled he is to see how the Newnan and Coweta County area is growing as a medical hub, with Piedmont Newnan Hospital and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America facility, and growing with furthering education with academies like the Central Educational Center. He said one of his initiatives is for every high school student to have access to college and career academies, and Coweta County is a perfect model.
“Education really drives the economy,” Cagle said. “It’s not the other way around.”
Cagle praised Georgia growth, sharing two success stories. The first was the investment in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which grew Atlanta to its now-enormous size. Now, according to Cagle, Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the world, which is boosting Georgia’s economy.
“We are the capital of the South,” Cagle said.
Georgia is also fortunate to have the Savannah port as a huge economic engine, Cagle said. The port is the fastest growing in the nation, and it will only continue to grow when it gets the funding for its deepening – which Cagle later said he believes is going to happen.
Cagle turned to the future of Georgia. The recession gave the government the opportunity to assess Georgia’s strengths and weaknesses, he said, and during that time state leaders had to cut $4 billion from spending. While this was hard, the government realized that Georgia made the mistake of putting all its eggs into one basket – residential construction.
Now, the future is looking to manufacturing and agriculture because they are jobs that generate wealth by creating something out of nothing. Manufacturing is critical, he said, because the creation of one job means another five jobs will be created to support it.
Georgia is also the leading state in the creation of apps – mobile phone applications, Cagle said. This is mainly due to the large number of students and graduates of institutions like the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
“Technology is changing the way we do business,” Cagle said. “I believe in the next century, we can become the Silicon Valley of the South.”
Cagle said businesses now do not need brick and mortar to compete in the market. For instance, an entirely online company like Amazon.com outsold Home Depot, one of the largest companies headquartered in Georgia, in gas grills during the last year. Everyone now has cell phones capable of almost instantly finding the cheapest place to buy any product in the world.
One of Cagle’s big initiatives is investing in keeping the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in Georgia, and working on attracting new companies to relocate here. Georgia has the economy and geography to allow for the growth of any company, he said.
Cagle also answered a few questions. The first was about the status of the Savannah port expansion, and Cagle said he is optimistic that Washington will supply the federal portion of the funding required to deepen the port. At the moment, the large ships that come into the port can only go in and out during high tide, but the governor’s office has received indications from Washington that they will do their part to fund the project. Cagle also said the expansion of the Panama Canal has been delayed, so that is helping.
Cagle was also asked about the movie industry in Georgia, and he was proud to say that Georgia is third in the nation, behind California and New York. He said not only does the introduction of the movie industry mean more business for restaurants, but Georgia is also becoming the home of brick and mortar movie studios, with one of the largest being Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville.
Cagle said he is looking forward to a great future from Newnan and Coweta County. Both the city and county are working on paving a way for a brighter future through education, medical centers, and manufacturing companies, he said.