A quarter of the way through the American Century, Calvin Coolidge famously argued that it was economic prosperity that undergirded the strength and charity and peace that all Americans sought. “After all,” he said, “the chief business of the American people is business.”
Almost a century later, the chief business of the American people is still business, and Georgia — long since heralded as the Empire State of the South — is again the empire state of the entire business community, having been selected by Site Selection Magazine as “the number one state for business” for the seventh year in a row.
This recognition, of course, is, above all else, a referendum on the hard work and dedication of everyday, working Georgians who toil and till and sweat. But it is also a referendum on the economic vision of the state’s leaders, men like Govs. Brian Kemp and Nathan Deal — people who, for many years now, have refused the temptation to spur growth using solicitous mechanisms of government like taxation and regulation, instead relying on innovation and investment and creativity. It is inspirational to see what these policies have yielded. Consider:
Georgia is one of only a handful of states to maintain a AAA bond rating from all three major agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s).
Nine out of 10 Fortune 500 companies have operations in Georgia — and 18 of these have made Georgia their world headquarters.
During 2018, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, our film tax credit facilitated 455 qualified television and film productions, generating an estimated $9.5 billion impact.
Also during 2018, we enjoyed a $66.2 billion economic impact from our robust tourism industry.
Exports are exceeding $40.6 billion; and total trade exceeds $139 billion.
And perhaps most importantly, unemployment continues to approach all-time lows as a record number of Georgians — upward of 4.6 million — have jobs.
These yields did not, of course, happen in a vacuum. They are thanks to our low corporate tax rate, which, for years, remained at 6% before finally being lowered, and our Job Tax Credit, which has been in place for 25 years, as well as our investments in roads and infrastructure, in broadband expansion, in increased technical training for tomorrow’s workers, and in more accessible, more responsive, state-of-the-art health care.
Success in business, of course, does not presage success in every facet of life. But it helps.
A few years after Coolidge praised Americans as chieftains of industry, a New England historian wrote about a “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Thus was born a now-ubiquitous phrase: the American Dream, the underlying idea of which has at times been celebrated and other times derided. But it’s always been sought, even by its most cynical critics.
And while learned men and women have argued over the best way to secure such richer, fuller lives — remember when Friedman said “We’re all Keynesians now?” — Georgia has followed Coolidge’s blueprint: charity and virtue, underscored — preserved, in fact — by economic prosperity.
Here’s to another year as the nation’s chieftain of enterprise. May there be more to come. With your help and continued support, we’ll get there.
Sen. Butch Miller serves as the president pro tempore of the Georgia State Senate. He represents the 49th Senate District, which includes most of Hall County. He may be reached at 404-656-7454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.