It’s a lot more than zombies now. The popular television show “The Walking Dead” put Georgia on the map when it comes to television and film production.
The industry has grown exponentially in the Peach State over the past decade. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018, $2.7 billion was spent in the state producing TV series such as “The Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things” and blockbuster movies such as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The state has seen a 10-fold increase in dollars spent on these productions since 2008. To lure Hollywood filmmakers, Georgia gave $800 million in tax breaks to the industry in 2017. That’s far more than New York and California, which provided $420 million and $320 million in breaks that year, respectively.
While the entertainment industry is growing fast in the Peach State, it represents only a small sliver of the $565 billion gross domestic product for the state. It’s hard to pinpoint the major industries for the state, because so many different business sectors perform so well in Georgia.
The state has a host of major corporations that count Georgia as home, including Coca Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS, The Home Depot and more. Twenty-six companies with headquarters in Atlanta rank on the Fortune 1000 list. Railroad giant Norfolk Southern Corp. announced in December it was moving its headquarters from Norfolk, Virginia, to Atlanta, bringing 850 jobs and more than $500 million in expected economic investment.
For the sixth year in a row, Site Selection magazine has ranked Georgia the top state in the nation for business climate.
Agribusiness remains important for the state. Georgia ranked 14th in the nation in terms of value of food produced — at nearly $10 billion. The Peach State, however, ranks behind California and South Carolina in production of its namesake fruit.
Georgia ranks eighth in the nation in defense spending with major Army bases such as Fort Benning and Fort Stewart.
Manufacturing employment in Georgia peaked at about 554,000 jobs in 1997. That had shrunk to 385,000 by 2016, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. The state agency expects that number to grow to 416,000 by 2026.
Georgia faces some challenges. Atlanta ranked fourth in the nation for cities with the worst traffic, for instance. To combat congestion, the state passed a transportation bill to raise $1 billion a year to pay for mainly maintenance projects.
For public schools, Georgia ranks 41st in the nation for graduation rates, 37th for average SAT scores and 23rd for college readiness.
Georgia had an estimated population of 10.5 million as of July 2018. The state’s median household income as of 2017 was $52,977. About 14.9 percent of the population lives in poverty. N
Home sales and prices
Atlanta’s home prices have been on an upward trend over the past four years, according to data from the Atlanta Realtors Association. Home prices per unit reached $285,000 this past July, a high for the year. That’s up from $237,000 for the same month in 2015.
Home sales have also generally been on the upswing, but had slowed somewhat in 2018. In November 2018, 3,953 homes were sold in the city, down 9.1 percent from the same month for the previous year. Still, the sales volume — and whether it surpassed the previous year — varied month to month throughout 2018.
Georgia saw its unemployment rate drop to 3.6 percent this past October. That’s slightly under the U.S. rate of 3.7 percent for the same month. Like many states, Georgia suffered mightily during the Great Recession. The state saw double-digit unemployment from June 2009 through October 2011. By comparison, the national rate went above 10 percent for just one month in the recession. Georgia’s unemployment rate has fallen steadily since then.
The Georgia labor force consists of nearly 5 million workers. Some 525,000 new jobs are expected to be added between 2016 to 2026, according to a forecast from the Georgia Department of Labor. Of those, the majority are expected to be in the service sector, with health care and social assistance leading the way.
Delinquencies and foreclosures
The delinquency rate for mortgages in Georgia, defined as loans 30 days or more past due, was 5.6 percent as of September 2018, according to CoreLogic’s Loan Performance Insights Report. That’s down from 6.1 percent for the same month in 2017. The national rate for September 2018 was 4.4 percent. The foreclosure rate in Georgia stood at 0.5 percent in September 2018, down slightly from the prior year’s mark of 0.4 percent. Nationwide, 0.3 percent of outstanding mortgages were in foreclosure as of this past September, according to CoreLogic.
The number of foreclosure filings as measured by auctions and homes taken back by banks, or real estate owned (REO), has dropped steeply since the Great Recession, according to Attom Data Solutions. In 2012, 124,848 foreclosure filings occurred in the state. That number dropped to 22,990 in 2017, the last full year of available data. Through the first three quarters of 2018, the number of filings stood at 16,616.
What the locals say
“Starting in the 1950s, Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, were about the same size. It was a big issue about whether … Birmingham or Atlanta [would become the dominant Southern city]. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Atlanta started to grow faster than other cities in the Southeast and the U.S. generally. We’ve been outpacing, fairly steadily, the U.S. since then. We’ve had four decades of growth faster than the nation. If you do 1 percent faster than the nation annually, and you do that on a compound basis for a few decades, you get somewhere.”
3 Cities to Watch
The list is a who’s who of major corporations in America: Coca Cola, The Home Depot, UPS and Delta Air Lines. Atlanta ranks behind just New York City and Houston in the number of Fortune 1000 companies that have headquarters in the city — a total of 26. Atlanta has a population of just more than 486,000, but it is the center of a metropolitan area that has a total population of 5.9 million. The city is a transportation hub for the southeastern United States. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic.
The college came before the college town. The University of Georgia was chartered as America’s first state college in 1785. The city of Athens incorporated in 1806. The city was named after the ancient Greek center of higher learning. Today, the largest employer in Athens is the university with nearly 10,000 employees. The university also provides much of the energy for the city. Bands R.E.M. and the B-52s first made their starts playing in the community.
Founded in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia, and the city attracts millions of visitors every year who are drawn to see its historic charm, elegant architecture, ornate ironworks and green squares. The city has a population of 146,500, the majority of whom are African-American. Savannah is home to the headquarters for Gulfstream Aerospace, which produces business-class aircraft. Gulfstream employs nearly 10,000 people in Savannah and the surrounding county. Other major employers include hospitals Memorial University Medical Center and St. Joseph’s/Candler, which employ 8,100 combined.
Sources: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Atlanta Realtors Association, Attom Data Solutions, Beef2Live, CoreLogic, Forbes, Freddie Mac, Georgia Department of Labor, GlobeST.com, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Livability.com, National Conference of State Legislatures, PrepScholar, Savannah Now, Site Selection, SmarterTraveler, The Atlanta Constitution-Journal, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. News & World Report, Visit Athens