UWG experts: positive economic forecast
by Clay Neely
The economic forecast for the west Georgia region appears optimistic, according to the new West Georgia Regional Update issued by the University of West Georgia’s Richards College of Business.
UWG business experts state Georgia is expected to add up to 4,000 net new jobs in 2014 – and west Georgia is expected to share in job growth.
Coweta sustained a robust 7.6 percent job growth during the 2012 to 2013 period. Growth in Coweta was led by the health care sector, which added nearly 600 jobs by the close of 2013, according to the report. In the same period, both Douglas and Coweta counties led the region in new goods-production jobs, with most new jobs in manufacturing.
While data for 2013 raised concerns about returning to double-digit unemployment rates in west Georgia, the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 brought much lower rates.
In this period, every county in west Georgia experienced a reduction in unemployment rates, the UWG business experts note. In addition, four counties in the region saw unemployment rates decline as fast or faster than both the metro Atlanta area and the state overall. Yamaha in Coweta is expanding production by 100 workers and Yokogawa Corp. recently broke ground on a new distribution center. In addition, Niagara Bottling announced a $52 million investment in a bottled water facility, which is expected to create more than 40 new jobs.
Coweta, Douglas and Polk counties have seen manufacturing job growth over the past year totaling 621 jobs; however, losses from Carroll, Haralson and Polk counties have more than offset those gains.
In total, West Georgia is expected to add 2,700 new manufacturing jobs in the next three years. However, the lack of depth in the state’s workforce education and skills is often cited as a major hindrance to long-term growth in this sector.
Health care, accommodation/food services, and the administrative support sectors have all sustained job growth in excess of 5 percent over this one-year period.
The housing market is also showing signs of recovery and continues in an upward direction.
The west Georgia single-family housing market continues to show signs of recovering with the average price of house sales showing a gain of 17.7 percent in the past year.
One reaction to the higher sales price has been an increase in west Georgia homeowners’ willingness to wait for higher prices, the UWG researchers said.