Kemp takes heat, but Georgia’s economic record speaks for itself
Gov. Brian Kemp has been making the rounds internationally to tout Georgia’s economic success and bring more jobs and development here. He has traveled to South Korea, Japan, and Europe, and just last week, he was in Israel where he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the “synergy” between the Peach State and Israel.
His Israeli trip didn’t raise many eyebrows, but an international trip earlier this year did. In January, he flew to Switzerland where—donning his cowboy boots and relying on his no-nonsense southern drawl—Kemp spoke at the World Economic Forum.
This was simply too much for his fiercest critics to bear. They lambasted Kemp on social media and fringe websites for having the audacity to speak at the organization’s convening, but they offered little justified reason for their anger. Perhaps they believed too many “elites” were in attendance or they bought into one of the conspiracy theories revolving around the organization.
“Referencing [the World Economic Forum’s] previous theme, ‘The Great Reset,’ hundreds of thousands of posts have circulated on social media in recent years, many appearing to claim that the global elite were planning to use the coronavirus to bring about total economic collapse,” per a CNBC report.
The truth is that the World Economic Forum hosts an annual event in which international business leaders and politicians meet to discuss global issues and how to address them. You don’t have to agree with the Forum’s policies or conclusions, but to suggest that Kemp shouldn’t have gone is ridiculous.
Among the annual meeting’s attendees were many hundreds of CEOs and dozens of politicians. If Kemp wanted to form relationships with business leaders to benefit Georgia or share its recipe for success, then he was at the right place. After all, the state’s economic track record is pretty good.
Area Development Magazine has named Georgia the top state to do business 9 years running, and e-commerce platform Shopify ranked Georgia the third best state to start a business. Of course, there are other rankings that rely on different metrics that aren’t as high on Georgia, but the Peach State’s economy and business environment are unquestionably better than your average state.
Georgia’s policymakers have worked hard to achieve this, keep unemployment low and cultivate an environment that welcomes small and large businesses alike. In the past few years, the state has reformed its professional licensing paradigm, lowered taxes, and paved the way for myriad companies to call Georgia home.
Fostering continued investment here is central to the state’s economic future, and Kemp has plenty to boast about, including sealing the 2021 Rivian deal that is “the single largest economic development project in state history,” according to a governor’s press release.
A solar company called Qcells announced earlier this year that it would invest an additional $2.5 billion in Georgia and create 2,500 jobs, and this is just a small sampling of the state’s triumphs. Kemp has reported numerous projects that in total have brought billions of dollars of investment into the state, which is a boon for Georgians.
Blockbuster deals like these grab headlines, but small businesses are also central to the economy’s backbone. Kemp has a solid record here too. Earlier this month, the governor celebrated Georgia’s Small Business Week and highlighted the success of the state’s small companies.
According to the governor’s proclamation, “There are more than 1 million small businesses operating in Georgia, which make up 99.8% of all businesses in the state and employ 1.6 million of its residents.” This equates to a massive impact in Georgia, but quantifying it can be a bit tricky.
A 2021 report from the University of Georgia found that small businesses employ almost 43 percent of Georgia’s private sector workers, and 87.6 percent of Georgia’s exporters are small companies. A more recent report from Shopify provides a snapshot of just how important small businesses are.
In their global entrepreneurship index, Shopify showed that their small business partners in Georgia helped support over 36,000 jobs, made $73.4 million in exports, and contributed to billions of dollars in business impact and activity. This only represents companies within the Shopify ecosystem, which is only a fraction of what small businesses do in Georgia, but these are eye-popping numbers that could continue to surge.
Georgia can certainly do more to improve its economic standing and help Georgians, and some of that is already underway. The Senate plans to begin studying ways to reduce barriers to employment and officials will continue pitching Georgia to business leaders across the globe.
Feel free to criticize Kemp all you want. However, if you’re infuriated that he has traveled to other countries and spoke at the World Economic Forum to promote Georgia’s interests, then I hope you find the state’s economic success just as infuriating.