From the About-Damned-Time Dept., Ga. econ. development official focuses on jobs

From today’s Savannah Morning News, reporter Mary Carr Mayle brings us some good news: Jobs the top priority for state’s new commissioner of economic development:

As a new state administration begins to settle in, Chris Cummiskey, Gov. Nathan Deal’s choice to lead his economic-development efforts, has already decided on his top three priorities.

Jobs, jobs and more jobs for Georgians.

To that end, Cummiskey is traveling the state this summer, bringing the governor’s Georgia Competitiveness Initiative to 12 regions, gathering input that will help him fine-tune a statewide economic-development strategy designed to grow and keep high-paying jobs.

That piece is a follow up to this one: Area business leaders prioritize job creation needs, which details Cummiskey’s meeting with Savannah area businesspeople.

While I’m certainly glad that Georgia officials seem more focused on jobs right now than at any point during Governor Sonny Perdue’s unfocused administration (with the exception of former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond), I’m still concerned over the speed and frequency with which sitting officials lapse into “we’re a great state to do business in” rhetoric. Are we? Georgia has lost over 28,000 jobs between May 2010 and May 2011. Meanwhile, the nation as a whole has been adding approximately 180,000 jobs per month in 2011. The U.S. economy began adding jobs about 16 months ago. Georgia has about 3% of the nation’s population, so we should have been adding about 5,000 jobs per month over the last year, not losing jobs.

If Georgia were such a great state to do business in, we wouldn’t still be losing jobs.

The focus of the recent meeting in Savannah was workforce education, but I think it’s also clear that we have a serious problem when it comes to demand. Yes, having a more educated workforce will make Georgia more competitive nationally and internationally, but we’ve seen a number of moves in the past year that have weakened retail demand in Georgia, including a large increase in electric rates, local tax increases, and passage of HB 87, which has led to wasted crops and lower demand for retail services in rural areas.