Economic development wins beg the question: Where are the workers?



(The Center Square) — While Georgia officials continually tout economic development wins, it appears to be causing some consternation among new and long-standing employers in parts of the state.

“As we all know, this issue is so critical to the state and, of course, our region,” Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, said during a meeting of the Senate Study Committee on Expanding Georgia’s Workforce.

“We did an assessment based on what we think we need to hire just in the manufacturing sector over the next eight years,” Tollison added. “And it’s pretty alarming — 18,000 jobs that we’re going to have to fill, and that includes, obviously, Hyundai, their suppliers, the other manufacturing corporations in the community, and so it’s a big lift. … We’ve been really put in a pickle, as we’ve had a lot of great economic success in the region.”

The Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America, announced in May 2022, is currently under construction on the 2,923-acre Bryan County Megasite along Interstate 16.

The committee, which the Georgia Senate created by passing Senate Resolution 275, will hold a series of meetings throughout the state and make recommendations for lawmakers to consider starting in January.

During the meeting, participants seemed particularly interested in apprentice programs available to help attract younger workers into manufacturing jobs.

“The HOPE Grant Program is fantastic; our experience with the technical colleges has been fantastic,” Jay Neely, vice president of law & public affairs for Gulfstream and the chairman of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said during the hearing. “But we just need more of it, as the old saying goes.”

Gulfstream added 3,750 jobs in 2022 and 2,167 so far this year. It expects to add 2,849 new jobs next year.

Technical College System of Georgia has received federal Title I money to help fund U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeships. In recent legislative cycles, state lawmakers have provided state funds to help with apprenticeships, for industry to be paid to enter into apprenticeships.

“I believe we are changing that perception of apprenticeships, the perception of which pathways are out there,” TCSG Commissioner Greg Dozier said. “And it’s truly making a difference from the governor’s support, industry support and specifically [lawmakers’] support in the appropriations process.”



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