Georgia’s Historically Business-Friendly Stance puts it at Greater Risk
Georgia is in a very complicated position. There’s a press conference scheduled for 5pm today [3/23/2020] — but at this time, Governor Kemp has “no plans to issue statewide mandatory business closures at this time.” For those watching in New York or California, this seems highly irresponsible.
But you have to think back to who Georgia is. For Georgia, controlling businesses is distinctly anti-state. This makes it very difficult for Kemp & local government leaders to enforce any type of business shutdown or closures. States like California, for instance, are employee-friendly and lean towards policies that typically protect public good over corporate interest — so enacting forced business shutdown is much less of a stretch, it falls within the established guidelines of that community. It falls within what the people expect from their respective state government.
But, Georgia is, in fact, historically one of the most employer friendly states in our nation. Giving Georgia businesses almost complete authority on how to run and when to operate is the crux of business success here. This is something our state leadership is exceptionally proud of. In a direct quote by GA Governor Kemp last year [Sept. 2019];
“I am exceptionally proud that Georgia has once again been named the Top State for Business by Area Development,” Kemp said in a press release Tuesday morning. “This announcement serves as a powerful testament to what we all know to be true: Georgia is the best place to live, work, and raise a family. Our efforts to cut red tape and ensure our business environment leads the nation continue to lure world-class companies to the Peach State from every corner of the map.
“Our world-class workforce is a direct result of our top-ranking colleges and universities, and Georgia Quick Start, the best workforce development program in the nation. The state’s innovative and comprehensive logistics network makes Georgia a gateway to the global economy by land, air, and sea.
Read : Georgia Named “Top State for Business” for 6th Straight Year.
Because of Georgia’s employer friendly policies, small, medium and even large business is the lifeblood of Georgia. This is a state and people that are highly focused on growing it’s economy, proud of it’s economy, and from a December 2019 piece from UGA :
Georgia’s economic growth will outpace the nation’s for the sixth straight year, according to the latest forecast from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business. The forecast is based on the Georgia Economic Outlook report, prepared by the Terry College’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. The complete forecast is available for purchase at terry.uga.edu/selig.
Read more here.
So now Georgia leadership has to make a very tough call, and there’s a already a massive lack of clear leadership regarding COVID-19 on the Federal level. It’s not surprising Georgia has not imposed harsh quarantine restrictions or mandatory business shutdowns. It’s for that reason Georgia will suffer tremendously with COVID-19, but it’s an understandably complex issue for Georgia that stems deeper than Georgia’s slow response.
Georgia’s economy has long been built on tourism, tobacco, ports & prisons — all of these areas are at risk with COVID-19, no matter how Georgia responds.
“Georgia is the nation’s 11th-largest export state and seventh-largest import state,” Ayers said. “We have a substantial transportation, distribution and logistics industry focused on international trade. Georgia’s large manufacturing and agriculture industries also depend heavily on easy access to global markets. That means Georgia is extremely vulnerable to any major step back from globalization.
Read more here
Kemp is in a tough position. Without any real strong federal republican leadership regarding COVID-19, he risks losing his support base by becoming a rare republican to take a strong stance on COVID and enforcing stay at home policies. He risks the wrath of business owners, many of whom are scrambling to stay afloat, pay their teams, and pay their own bills during this difficult time. Surprisingly — the most vocal at city counsel meetings, at least in Savannah, focus more on outrage at the government having the power to shut down businesses — Regardless of public good. He also risks Georgia becoming one of the slowest states to respond.
COVID-19 disrupts Georgia’s way of business and life, and is understandably frightening. Georgia is home to Savannah, GA is also one of the largest port cities on the East Coast. Our ports experience tremendous volume from all over the world daily, and while cargo that has spent weeks at sea may be fine, the people may not be, and there’s thousands of interactions and touch points happening at these places daily with little to no Federal or State oversight into new procedures. In Georgia, testing has primarily been focused on Atlanta. Yes — Atlanta has a major international airport, but the rest of our state needs easy and affordable access to testing — and quickly. We are likely to lose traction in the self-quarantine movement as people are unable to see their progress psychologically, and unknowing asymptomatic spreaders risk re-entering society.
Separately than a Democratic or Republican response , or even specific state-by-state responses & policies, is the horrific lack of testing available nationwide. Georgia has conducted an unreasonably low amount of tests [barely over 4,000 by time of publication] & state government has not provided any real timeline or concrete plan as to when, or where, more tests will become available. While our local and federal government scramble to figure out next steps, it’s time for Georgia to do what Georgia’s always done best — let local leaders & business lead.
This is a terrifying time, but our leaders need to be looking towards the future, towards new systems of economic growth, and focusing on quelling mass hysteria with strong action plans and focused press, even if we don’t know when the tide will break. And for Georgia — this is the time to talk about how the government plans on supporting the people driving Georgia’s economy — business owners & employees.
This is the time for Georgia to begin adapting on the technological scale — Savannah has been working on this [Thanks, Creative Coast & SEDA!] but at a state level, state resources need to be provided.
Atlanta & Savannah have both issued types of stay-at-home orders despite Kemp’s lack of support. Large Georgian corporations are making steps in the right direction. In Savannah, especially after the past two hurricanes we survived, our community looks to our strong business leaders to determine how to react. This is the community we’ve built.
We are a state that has prided itself of communities banding together when times get tough. I have no doubt in Savannah’s ability to rally as a community and grow together past this. Here’s hoping we can say the same for the rest of our state, and that our local leadership steps up to the difficult plate they’ve been fed.