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Metro Gainesville leads state in job growth
Area added 3,200 jobs in past year
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Georgia job gains/losses

Gainesville: 3,200, 4.3 percent

Athens: 2,600, 3.1 percent

Brunswick: 1,000, 2.8 percent

Augusta: -2,100, -1 percent

Columbus: -1,600, -1.3 percent

Dalton: -2,900, -4.5 percent

Source: State Department of Labor

Gainesville and Hall County’s economic diversity has helped it weather the recent recession, and boosted job growth in the area, according to officials.=

The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that metro Gainesville led the state with job gains during the past year, adding 3,200 since September 2011 — an increase of 4.3 percent.

Kit Dunlap, president/CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said the growth has come from some positive signs in manufacturing.

“We deal with a lot of manufacturing, and existing industry has hired some and the new industry has come in,” Dunlap said. “I think this (is) a good jump if you count the last four or five years. I think there had been pent-up demand in the past and things have gotten (a) little bit better and they’re beginning to hire and expand.”

In November, ProCare Rx officially broke ground on its 395,000-square-foot campus that includes a state-of-the-art data center. That along with new restaurants and retailers have helped fuel growth, said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the chamber.

Evans said many different types of companies helped add up to the 3,200 new jobs.

“There’s been a lot of growth in a lot of different areas,” he said, citing businesses such as IMS Gear, ProView Food and Victory Foods, which all have expanded in the past year. “Probably the greatest source of those jobs come from existing businesses.”

Dunlap said many manufacturers call metro Gainesville home because it’s “very centrally located to all transportation arteries.” She also points to a good quality of life and strong government and industry leadership.

“We have a very pro-business climate; it always (has) been,” Dunlap said. “Everybody has always been together on encouraging economic development and attracting new businesses.”

The job growth has come from big and small businesses, Evans said.

“There’s been a balance of larger businesses that have been hiring and building up and sort of catching up on the inventories, but also small-business startups opening,” he said. “Small businesses make up a great deal of employment in any community, but particularly ours. These last few years a lot of people have left the workforce and started their own small businesses.”

Dunlap said there has been an increase in project activity during the past three months, and she expects more growth in the future in all industries, including manufacturing.

Evans echoed that, saying that the area needs to develop some new business parks to accommodate the growth.

“It’s important to have new places for new businesses to come in and for existing businesses to expand to,” he said, adding that the Gateway Industrial Centre on Ga. 365 is in the works.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said he is especially pleased with the improvement in the state’s manufacturing industry, which added 1,900 jobs from August to September.

“We’re continuing to see gains in manufacturing and a lot of the credit for that goes to the great job the state’s Department of Economic Development and Gov. Deal have been doing, not only in attracting new manufacturers, but helping to hold on to the ones that we have,” Butler said. “Last month’s gain in manufacturing jobs was the largest over-the-month gain that we’ve seen for this time period since 1994.”

The August to September growth in 1994 was 2,000.

The Dalton area, which has been hard-hit by plant closings with reductions in the carpet and floor-covering industry, led the state in job losses during the past year. The northwest Georgia community lost 2,900 jobs, a 4.5 percent decline since September 2011.

“Northwest Georgia is full of great communities and they have so much, but you look at Dalton and they’ve had a hard time because their economy is not diverse,” Dunlap said. “We have a very diverse manufacturing base and because of our very diverse economy we have been more stable.”

In Dalton, where the unemployment rate has hovered around 12 percent, some employers do have openings, Butler said.

“We found out that there are job openings in the Dalton area and we’ve got some employers that are struggling to find the talent they need,” he said Thursday.

That area is planning an event that is part of a new Special Workforce Assistance Team designed to help match workers with jobs and boost the economy. Part of the new effort is designed to identify employees who have the skills to fill those jobs now, or would be able to with some additional training.

“It’s going to be a very intensive effort, unlike anything the Department of Labor has ever done before,” Butler said.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 9 percent in September. The rate declined because Georgia had the fewest new claims for unemployment insurance benefits in five years — before the start of the Great Recession, Butler said.

Another positive sign is the growth in Georgia’s labor force, which climbed to 4,777,977 in September, up by 18,126, or four-tenths of a percentage point, from 4,759,851 in August. The state’s workforce totaled 4,731,276 in September 2011.

The number of long-term unemployed workers declined for the fifth consecutive month, dropping 8,400 from August to 208,800 in September, the fewest since 204,700 were recorded in March 2010. The long-term unemployed, those out of work for more than 26 weeks, make up 48.6 percent of those unemployed in Georgia, the lowest percentage in two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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