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Columbus is Georgia's economic growth leader


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The information below is from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. The entire article can be viewed here Columbus job growth

Columbus is expected to be Georgia's economic star over the next five years, one of the state's top economists said Friday. Dramatic growth at Fort Benning, Aflac's campus expansion and a hot construction industry will be the engine driving growth in Columbus. Overall, 3,600 jobs will be created locally this year, with as many as 18,000 materializing through 2010. According to Jeff Humphreys, director of the University of Georgia's Selif Center for Economic Growth, he said, "This year's projected 3 percent employment growth rate will make Columbus the hottest job performer out of all 14 of Georgia's major metro areas, including Atlanta". "The Columbus economy will shift from first gear, where it is right now, into second or third gear this year, and then upward from there." Humphreys' predictions came Friday during the Columbus Regional Bi-State Economic Outlook luncheon at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. The event, which attracted more than 300 business and community leaders, is held annually by UGA's Terry College of Business.

Ft. Benning:

The repositioning of troops and civilian employees should boost Fort Benning's permanent work force by 8,800 over the next four years. The installation, famed for training infantrymen since 1917, is picking up the U.S. Armor Center and its tank training from Fort Knox, Ky. Local housing construction will be led by a $500 million, 10-year upgrade of more than 4,000 dwellings on Fort Benning, while the private sector off post is expected to add single-family homes and apartments at a fast clip to keep up with the military demand. Many of the new military and civilian workers will bring family members to the community. When all is said and done, Humphreys said Columbus could add as many as 30,000 people to its metro population. The U.S. Defense Department also is planning to funnel another $2.7 billion in construction projects to Fort Benning for its heightened mission needs and facility upgrades.


The supplemental insurance firm is spending $100 million on the project, which will add 2,000 jobs over the next two years. Like Fort Benning, Aflac's injection of capital into the community will generate as many as 2,000 additional jobs, Humphreys said, with other businesses -- such as restaurants, stores and service companies -- opening or expanding to support the growth. "Not only are you going to have the largest public economic project in the state with Fort Benning, you'll have the largest private economic development project with Aflac," Humphreys said

Hospitality Industry:

The hospitality industry, meanwhile, looks to become an even bigger player in the local economy this year with the city on the verge of attracting 1 million annual visitors for the first time in its history. Last year, 965,472 people visited Columbus, according to data compiled by Columbus State University. Smith Travel Research, a tourism consulting firm, is forecasting a 6 percent increase in the city's visitation this fiscal year. That would mean an additional 58,000 visitors and put the city over 1 million. Softball and soccer tournaments, military training and reunions, corporations and traditional sightseeing tourists all contribute to that number. At the same time, construction should begin this year on six or more new hotels in the city. Possible brands include Country Inns & Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Microtel, Ramada, Sleep Inn, Staybridge Suites and the upstart extended-stay chain Value Place.

Auto factory shopping:

One area of interest for both Georgia and Alabama is the possibility of a new Kia automotive assembly plant. Several communities have been mentioned as potential sites for the factory, which would employ at least 2,000 people and generate several dozen smaller supplier plants in its general vicinity. West Point, Ga., and Lanett, Ala., both situated off Interstate 85 north of Columbus, have been mentioned in news reports as possible locations for the plant.

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