Friday, October 31, 2008

Georgia Headed into Troubled Economy Before Fully Recovering From 2001 Recession

A report released today by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute concludes that even as the current economic slowdown hit, Georgia families were still trying to recover from the 2001 recession and its aftermath. The report, State of Working Georgia 2008, examines job growth, unemployment, income, and benefits, using data from the Current Population Survey and American Community Survey, among other sources.

The key findings surrounding the current economic slowdown include:

* From September 2007 to September 2008, Georgia lost 61,100 nonfarm jobs and was one of only five states to experience a statistically significant employment decrease, according to preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
* The number of unemployed workers rose by roughly 100,000 between September 2007 and September 2008, for a total of 317,500 out-of-work Georgians in September 2008. Georgia had the 15th highest unemployment rate in the nation in September.

Data for 2007 on underemployment, incomes, and benefits show that Georgia workers had not fully regained the ground lost during the 2001 recession. In short, before the 2008 economic crisis started, Georgians were still trying to recover from the 2001 recession, as was the case in many states. Data from BLS and Census Bureau surveys show:

* About 8 percent of workers were underemployed in 2007, compared to 6.3 percent in 2001. Underemployed includes unemployed workers, marginally attached workers, and part-time workers who would like full-time jobs.
* Median household income in 2007 remained statistically unchanged compared to 2001, after adjusting for inflation.
* The poverty rate remained high at 14.3 percent in 2007, compared to 11.7 percent in 2001.
* In 2006-2007, 59.9 percent of non-elderly Georgians were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, compared to 64.4 percent in 2000-2001. The percent of Georgians lacking health coverage rose from 15.0 percent in 2000-2001 to 17.6 percent in 2006-2007.

"The employment conditions in Georgia pose both short-term and long-term challenges, as policymakers must confront the current slowdown and the continued effects of the 2001 recession," noted Sarah Beth Gehl, Deputy Director of GBPI. "For the short-term, our leaders must protect vital public services as workers face unemployment and increased income insecurity. For the long-term, policymakers should focus on raising adult education levels and strengthening work and income supports for workers in low-paying jobs."

The report also examines employment conditions and income based on race, gender, and education, as well as income earned by each income quintile. The report provides budget and policy recommendations for both the current economic crisis and the long-term economic challenges faced by low-income working families.

Short-term recommendations -

* Call on Congress to pass an economic recovery package that includes additional weeks of unemployment benefits, a temporary increase in Food Stamp benefits, and state fiscal relief. (For estimates on the additional funds Georgia would receive under U.S. House and Senate packages, find tables at the end of this report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)
* Target budget cuts to lower priority programs. With a potential $2 billion state budget shortfall, the state has made across-the-board budget cuts to most state agencies. As Georgia families experience dramatic financial strain in 2008, leaders must ensure that vital government services are adequately funded. Medicaid, PeachCare, child care, and education, to name a few, should be spared as much as possible.
* Raise revenues through strategic tax increases. Rather than relying overwhelming on budget cuts, there should a balanced approached to the budget shortfall, including strategic tax increases. Raising the cigarette tax or implementing a temporary income tax surcharge, for example, would provide needed revenues to avoid further cuts to public services.
* Use the revenue shortfall reserve. Through good fiscal management, Georgia has a $1 billion rainy day fund. Now is the time to use it.

Long-term recommendations -

* Increase the capacity for adult basic education. Georgia invests around $14 per adult without a GED in adult basic education, compared to the national average of $64. Georgia should increase its investment in this area, along with outreach efforts towards nontraditional students and support services for families seeking education opportunities.
* Undertake additional outreach efforts for Medicaid and PeachCare. Of the 300,000 uninsured children in Georgia, an estimated 200,000 are eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare, but not enrolled. Getting eligible children and families enrolled in existing programs can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of available healthcare programs. The federal government covers a majority of the cost of these programs, with an almost 2 to 1 match for Medicaid and 3 to 1 match for PeachCare.
* Increase child care assistance for low- and moderate-income working families. Georgia uses federal dollars to assist low-income families with child care costs, but continues to have a waiting list for assistance. At the same time, Georgia subsidizes child care through the tax system, with millions of forgone tax dollars subsiziding child care for upper-income families. Policymakers should end the child care subsidy for higher-income Georgians and more fully assist low-income working families.
* Create a state earned income tax credit (EITC), enhance outreach efforts around the federal EITC, and raise the state minimum wage to the federal level.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NCR to locate Center of Excellence in Georgia

Fortune 500 company will expand within existing Peachtree City, Duluth facilities

Governor Sonny Perdue and NCR Corporation Senior Vice President Christine Wallace announced today that NCR, a Fortune 500 technology company, will establish a global Center of Excellence in Georgia, co-locating several key components of its Worldwide Customer Service operations and creating 916 new jobs in the next 26 months. In conjunction with this expanded service presence, the headquarters for NCR’s Worldwide Customer Services business will also be located in Georgia.

“We welcome NCR’s Center of Excellence to Georgia,” said Governor Perdue. “Georgia’s workforce is widely known for being highly skilled and able to provide quality customer service, which are both qualities that we are proud to contribute to NCR’s continued success.”

NCR – the world’s leading provider of ATMs, retail self-checkout and other innovative assisted- and self-service solutions – will make a $15 million capital investment and expand the number of personnel in its existing facilities in both Peachtree City and Duluth, creating new jobs in each community. The company will co-locate an NCR Learning Center and its Customer Care Center hub for the Americas region with the company’s existing Global Service Materials operation in Peachtree City.

The 360,000-square-foot facility in Peachtree City will be extensively remodeled to create a world-class service support environment and training facility. The Peachtree City and Duluth facilities will house interrelated functions that support service delivery to NCR’s customers throughout the U.S. and Canada, and coordinate with NCR service centers in other regions to support customers on a global basis. Co-locating these functions in the greater Atlanta area will create a collaborative community of service professionals that can more easily share service knowledge and best practices. The Peachtree City facility will also enable visitors to observe NCR’s end-to-end service delivery process within a single location.

“The creation of this Center of Excellence underscores NCR’s commitment to its growing Worldwide Customer Services business and to exceeding our customers’ expectations of NCR as a dependable technology partner,” said Wallace. “Georgia’s thriving business environment and large, multilingual workforce will enhance NCR’s ability to provide cost-effective service delivery and the world’s highest levels of customer satisfaction and solution availability.”

“We thank this Fortune 500 Company for their investment in our community,” said Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon. “Peachtree City’s slogan is ‘Plan to Stay’ and we are thrilled to know that NCR has chosen to do just that by announcing their decision to expand their operations here. In choosing Peachtree City for their Customer Services Center of Excellence, NCR is demonstrating that Peachtree City is the preeminent location for world class industry to locate and grow, and that they value our unique location and quality of life.”

“I’m proud that Gwinnett County Economic Development and Partnership Gwinnett have once again been able to attract this kind of high quality project to our county, our state, and our region. This is a tremendous accomplishment for all of us,” said Charles Bannister, chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Major Auto Assembly Equipment for Kia Arrives in Georgia

The first major machinery destined for Kia Motors’ West Point manufacturing plant arrived in the United States this week when the ship M/V Leopold Stuffs coasted into the Port of Savannah carrying more than 3,500 tons of automobile-making equipment.

Over the next few weeks, the equipment will be transported from Savannah to Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc.’s $1.2 billion facility, which is under construction in West Point. There it will be assembled into two large presses that will be used to form various panels for Kia vehicles. Some of the larger pieces weigh up to 125 tons and require special arrangements for its transportation across Georgia.

“This is a great example of how Georgia’s strengths enable our successes in economic development,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “From our ports to our highways to QuickStart’s workforce training, Georgia has all the advantages that global companies look for in a place to create new jobs and new investment.”

With Kia’s planned 2,500 jobs and $1.2 billion investment, the economic impact of the project on West Georgia and the state is continuing to grow. Automotive suppliers who have announced their intent to locate in the region as a result of Kia’s presence will bring the total job creation number to more than 6,000.

“The arrival of these presses inside the state of Georgia is another huge step for Kia as we get closer to going into production in West Point,” said Randy Jackson, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc.’s (KMMG) director of human resources and administration. “It takes quite an effort between Kia and various state agencies to coordinate the transport of such a large shipment, but Georgia’s ability to facilitate such an effort is one of the main reasons we’re here.”

Jackson praised the collaboration among the various agencies for making this significant achievement possible. The overall project is spearheaded by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The Georgia Ports Authority’s (GPA) capabilities for receiving and handling such large pieces of cargo, combined with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) engineering know-how for determining a secure route and monitoring safety requirements enable the equipment to make the final leg of a journey that has already taken it 15,000 miles from its origin in Masan, Korea. Quick Start, Georgia’s workforce training program which is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, closes the loop by helping to prepare Kia’s team members for operation of the assembly equipment.

"Kia is an important customer for the GPA and this recent shipment is another example of that partnership," said Doug J. Marchand, Executive Director of the GPA. "We look forward to working with Kia for many years to come."

The shipment left Masan, Korea, August 12 on the Leopold Staffs and has since navigated across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, across the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the coast to the Port of Savannah. Aerocosta Global Systems of New York coordinated the ship’s operations.

Once the equipment is unloaded from the ship, the items will be transported another 300 miles to KMMG in West Point in 128 separate loads. The company Guy M. Turner, Inc. of North Carolina will transport the pieces from the Port of Savannah to West Point, using a fleet of trucks that include dual-lane trailers and a specialized 19-axle truck for the largest pieces of the presses.

The equipment will be assembled by the company Rotem, its manufacturer, into a transfer press and a blanking press. The transfer press will use its capability for 5,400 tons of pressure to stamp steel into 17 different types of vehicle panels for the next generation Sorento, including its hood, doors and fenders. The blanking press will use 600 tons of pressure to cut steel “blanks” which will be shaped by the stamping press.
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