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Georgia named best for doing business 4 years in row
1103BUSINESS
Josh Huff and Derrick Lavendar work near the end of an assembly line putting together lawn mowers and tractors in October 2015 at Kubota Manufacturing of America in Gainesville. The company is in the midst of an expansion of its presence in Hall County. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Georgia has been named the leading state in the country in which to do business for the fourth year in a row by Site Selection magazine.

Kubota Manufacturing of America has done several expansions in Hall County, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development has played a large part in them, Phil Sutton, chief administrative officer for the company, said Wednesday.

“The Georgia Department of Economic Development has been such a friendly place, helping every step of the way,” he said.

Kubota is in the midst of a large expansion, with a new building and hiring about 580 people over five years.

The state’s Quick Start program for training and the technical college system is “like one-stop shopping,” Sutton said. “Whatever you need they have, and they are unbelievably responsive.”

Hall County has about 90 economic development projects “in our pipeline,” and 15 to 20 of them come through the state Department of Economic Development, Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development, said Wednesday.

Many of the rest of the 90 projects the “state will be involved with in one way, shape or form,” Evans said. “It’s not just one agency or entity.”

Evans noted the state also has ranked highly for economic development by Area Development magazine and CNBC. Those rankings are “an indication that we’re doing something right,” he said.

He also quoted Brian Rochester, chair of the chamber’s economic development council as saying, “If Georgia is the No. 1 state in the nation, then Hall County is the No. 1 county in the state.” That must mean Hall County is “No. 1 in the universe, maybe we should say the ‘known universe,’” Evans commented.

He pointed out the state’s educational departments — University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia — also are heavily involved in economic development efforts.

Evans said Lanier Tech works with local companies on training. Ray Perren, president of Lanier Tech, starts nearly every talk about the school with “our mission can be summed up in two words: ‘workforce development.’”

For the past couple of years, the chamber has worked with the Hall County and Gainesville school systems to focus attention on workforce development, especially for manufacturing businesses. Its workforce development task force leads that effort.

“Availability of talents and skills in the workforce comes up again and again as a top factor in location decisions for new and expanding businesses,” Evans said.

“During this economic rebound of the past few years, it is increasingly difficult for many employers to find the talent and skills needed to run their businesses.”

Sutton said training for his employees can be done at Lanier Technical College or at the Kubota facilities. The college will provide the training or “a lot of times they just prepare the instructions so you can do some of the training on your own,” he said.

Sutton said the state provides help with grants, incentives — even site selection. State officials will introduce companies to local chambers and economic developers, and “actually walk the (potential) properties with you,” he said. “They really hold your hand through the whole process.”

“Georgia’s fourth consecutive top state business climate ranking is based on where corporate expansion projects are occurring and where investors say they want to commit their capital for the long term,” said Mark Arend, editor-in-chief of Site Selection.

“Our readers say the state’s fiscal soundness, predictable economic and regulatory climate, workforce and transportation infrastructure are their main reasons for investing in Georgia,” he added.

According to a press release from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, Georgia has attracted 575,000 jobs since 2011.

“For a remarkable fourth time in a row, Georgia has once again been named the top state in nation in which to do business, highlighting the vitality of our state economy and the business-friendly environment that continues to help companies grow,” Deal said.

“Economic development’s a team sport,” Evans said. The state has “many, many resources” it calls on for business projects, he added.

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