Surveys tout Georgia’s economy, business climate

Coming Soon:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will examine recent rankings of the state’s business climate and other measures of the economy to see where Georgia really stacks up.

Three surveys have named Georgia to their honor rolls for business climate.

Business network CNBC on Tuesday named Georgia its top state for business for 2014. Two other surveys recognized the Peach State and the city of Atlanta for being near the head their classes for both small business friendliness and tax friendliness.

Gov. Nathan Deal has gotten a lot of political mileage and taken some heat for touting such rankings as he seeks reelection. Deal pointed to the latest CNBC rating as vindication of sorts during a trade mission to Israel.

“It is the fulfillment of the goal that I had when I was first elected,” Deal told the AJC in an interview.

CNBC lauded Georgia for its “abundant supply of educated, largely non-union workers” and for its improving economy. The network also noted infrastructure such as the Savannah port and world’s busiest airport.

In measures of both quality of life and education, however, the state ranked 32nd, CNBC said.

The CNBC rank follows two similar rankings by a niche publication, Site Selection magazine. Critics have contended Deal has used that magazine's rankings as a smokescreen for other economic problems that have plagued the state since before the Great Recession.

From 1997 to 2012, for instance, Georgia ranked 30th in GDP growth and 49th in per capita income growth, according to an analysis by the Carolina Center for Competitive Economies at the University of North Carolina. And Georgia’s unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in May was among the 10 highest in the nation.

Deal also has started a listening tour with businesses to ensure the state is prepared to develop skilled workers for the future. Some companies have said they can't find the talent they need in Georgia.

Two other surveys released Tuesday applauded the state and to Atlanta for being friendly to small business and for being tax-friendly to businesses of any size.

Georgia received an overall small business friendliness grade of A- in a survey done for Thumbtack.com, an online broker for local consumer service providers, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private foundation that promotes entrepreneurship.

Georgia ranked 10th in the nation for the second year in a row in the survey, which assessed states and cities in 10 different categories: ease of starting a business; ease of hiring; licensing; regulations; health and safety; tax code; employment, labor and hiring; environmental; zoning; and training and networking.

Georgia rated an A- in environmental and in zoning, a B+ in ease of starting a business, and a B in ease of hiring, regulations and tax code. It received a C+ in licensing, and a C in training and networking.

The top rated states overall were Utah, Idaho, Texas, Virginia and Louisiana. The survey included responses from more than 12,000 small business owners.

The same survey, in measuring cities, gave Atlanta an A- for overall friendliness to small businesses. It fared best in zoning and in environmental regulation, and poorest in training and networking programs.

In a separate study, Atlanta ranked third among 31 U.S. cities with populations of more than 2 million in having a favorable tax structure. Atlanta also had the lowest tax burden in one of four industry sectors analyzed: research and development.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article