Showing posts with label Banks County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Banks County. Show all posts

Monday, July 12, 2021

Emerging employment center: The Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor

 

The story of the Atlanta metro region has been a story of growth and expansion from the original core counties of Fulton and DeKalb outward, and the Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor in the northeast section of the state is an emerging labor market that deserves more attention.

As metro area employment has grown from 2.1 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2020, growth pushed out mainly to the north and northwest into northern Fulton County, as well as Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, and Gwinnett counties, along with the Gainesville, Ga., MSA that includes only north central Hall County.

One area that stands to benefit from continued metro Atlanta growth are the counties along interstate highway I-85 that connects Atlanta through Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina with Richmond, Virginia.

In all, six counties make up the labor market that is anchored at one end by fast-growing Gwinnett County, the corridor extends up to Hart County, which borders South Carolina. Other counties include Banks, Barrow, Franklin, and Jackson.

Lower land prices, access to growing centers, such as Atlanta using the I-85 interstate highway and rail freight lines, as well as a lower average wages related to a lower cost of living are encouraging increases in both population and jobs in the corridor.

Unlike Silicon Valley, or Boston’s Route 128 Technology Corridor, the I-85 corridor is likely to develop primarily with a manufacturing and distribution supply-chain focus.

Below is a profile of the corridor.

Population

Census Bureau figures show that the counties in or closest to the Atlanta metro area have shown the most growth from 2010 to 2019, while those farther away from Atlanta have slower growth rates but contain large areas of undeveloped land to accommodate future growth.

The six counties along the corridor posted a combined population growth rate of 16 percent over the nine-year period, compared to a 9.6 percent growth rate for the state. Jackson and Barrow counties each recorded growth of more than 20 percent over the past nine years, while Gwinnett County, with 80 percent of the six counties’ total population, grew at a remarkable 16.3 percent.

With population growth comes demand for additional goods and services and also an increasing labor force available to meet employers’ demands for workers.

Demographics

The Census Business Bureau tells that the six counties in the corridor have a higher percentage of the working age population in the labor force compared to the state (67.2 percent compared to 63.2 percent), with a lower percent in poverty (11.2 percent compared to 15.1 percent).

African-Americans make up 24.4 percent of the population compared to 31.6 percent statewide, while Hispanics (of any race) make up 18.7 percent compared to 9.5 percent statewide. Nearly 22 percent of the population is foreign-born, where that percentage drops to 10.1 percent for the state. It is likely that the largest proportion of the foreign-born reside in Gwinnett County with fewer as you travel towards the state border.

As an aside, the number of people who spoke an Asian or Pacific Island language at home was nearly 3x as large in the corridor counties (3.4 percent vs. 1.1 percent statewide). Again, it is likely that Gwinnett County residents have a large impact on these numbers.

Employment

From the end of 2001 through 2020, employment in the corridor has increased by nearly 28 percent compared to Georgia’s statewide gain of nearly 16 percent.

Gwinnett County, on the southwest end of the corridor, currently makes up over 80 percent of the corridor’s labor market, so that one county has a huge influence on the corridor’s employment statistics. While the Gwinnett County’s private sector employment has grown by more than 53,000 jobs, the other five counties in the corridor have added an additional 30,000 jobs, resulting in an employment growth rate of nearly 28 percent since the end of calendar year 2001.

Goods-producing and goods distribution has been particularly strong in the counties that make up the corridor. With lots of undeveloped land close to a major metro area and along an interstate highway and rail system, the corridor smaller losses in manufacturing employment compared to the state over the past 19 years while recording larger increases in employment in transportation and warehousing.

Since 2001, manufacturing employment has declined by 17 percent, while employment in transportation and warehousing have risen by 2.5x. In comparison, the state’s manufacturing dropped by 23 percent, while employment in transportation and warehousing grew by 36 percent.

If reshoring of manufacturing, as being now discussed, becomes a fact, it is likely that the counties along the corridor will benefit disproportionately.

The announcement of creation of a new inland port tied to the Port of Savannah in neighboring Hall County will also support manufacturing and warehousing in the adjacent counties of Banks and Jackson counties.

Wages

As for wages, compared to the average annual private sector pay of $67,068 for the Atlanta metro area in 2020, average annual pay in the six counties ranged from $36,431 in Banks County to $58,224 in Gwinnett County, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. This compares to average private sector pay in Georgia at $59,805, and $64,238 for the U.S.

For goods-producing industries (a sector that includes natural resources, construction, and manufacturing), average pay ranged from $45,757 in Franklin County to $67,842 in Gwinnett County, with the state averaging $61,461.

Average income in the six-county corridor was $87,284, $4,800 more than for Georgia as a whole.

Conclusion

The Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor represents an emerging labor market located along a major north-south interstate highway and near the growing Atlanta metropolitan region. Emerging labor markets can be difficult to neatly define, as they are not usually included in the regular definitions of statistical areas designated by Federal statistical agencies such as Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that makes watching them grow even more interesting.

Continued economic growth in the Southeast, along with manufacturing reshoring and the possibility of increased exports through the Port of Savannah, will all contribute to the corridor’s economic future.