Kemp promotes biz award as ‘testament’ to Georgia’s economy

August 19, 2020 Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp walk in before a press conference to provide update on efforts to combat human trafficking in Georgia at the Georgia State Capitol building on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Against the backdrop of a new Amazon warehouse, Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday announced an accolade from a niche business publication meant to boost the state’s economic development chops during the pandemic.

While most Georgians probably haven’t heard of Area Development Magazine, an outlet devoted to economic recruiters, Kemp is poised to heavily promote the “top state for doing business” award over the next year.

He called the award, the seventh consecutive, a “powerful testament to the fundamental strength of Georgia’s economy – even in these challenging times.” Other GOP leaders chimed in, invoking efforts to lower taxes and reduce regulations.

The governor is following the lead of his predecessor, Nathan Deal, who put the magazine rankings at the center of his campaign for re-election – frustrating critics who accused him of using the honors to mask the state’s economic problems.

Now, amid a recession triggered by the pandemic, Kemp wants to frame the magazine’s ranking as a sign of Georgia’s economic resiliency even as the spread of the coronavirus has smothered business growth.

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Roughly a half-million jobless Georgians are competing for about one-quarter that number of openings. Unemployment benefits have been slashed.

And though Georgia has made gains against the disease, the pandemic has shaken consumer confidence and hovered over every business decision.

”Half a million Georgians lost their jobs and benefits because of Brian Kemp’s failed mishandling of this pandemic,” said Maggie Chambers of the state Democratic party. “Working families don’t need Kemp’s self-congratulations — they need real leadership to get this virus under control so that Georgians can get back to work safely.”

Kemp chose a new Amazon warehouse in the shadow of Stone Mountain to herald the magazine’s ranking. The e-commerce giant promises to bring 1,000 jobs to Gwinnett County, which lured the project with roughly $20 million worth of tax incentives and infrastructure improvements.

The Republican used the occasion to declare that Georgia “remains the epicenter for job growth, economic development and investment” because of conservative leadership.

“But make no mistake about it,” Kemp said, “this ranking is because of the hardworking Georgians who work tirelessly to create opportunities and build success in their communities.”

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