by Amy Lavender and Isaiah Hinsley
The University of West Georgia contributed more than $463.15 million to the west Georgia regional economy for the fiscal year 2014, according to a recently released report from the University of Georgia. Marking the eighth year of consecutive growth, this amount is a significant increase from the 2013 amount of $442 million.
“UWG is proud to be a contributing partner to the continued economic growth that is transforming the west Georgia region,” said UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero. “It’s rewarding to see first hand the impact that our collaborative business and corporate partnerships bring to our community and the region.”
The news in this report comes as no surprise as similar trends were recently highlighted during UWG’s Richards College of Business annual Economic Breakfast.
“Overall, things are looking up in west Georgia,” announced Dr. Joey Smith, chair of UWG’s economics department. “We are producing more things in west Georgia, and the things we are producing are in demand.”
This increase in demand has resulted in more jobs, of which Carroll County has added 1,188. The entire west Georgia region, which includes Carroll, Haralson, Douglas, Polk, Heard and Coweta Counties, has added 5,634 jobs in the past year – substantially more than the year before. Most of that job growth was in the healthcare, manufacturing and service industries.
“This is good because it provides us with a variety of jobs for people of various skill levels, and it provides many individuals with high-quality, high-paying, stable jobs,” Smith said.
West Georgia is also now seeing an unemployment reduction and a rise in the labor market, allowing more people to enter the workforce.
“This means despite the fact we have more people entering the workforce, those people are still able to find jobs,” Smith said.
Unemployment is down to 5.7 percent from last year’s 6.9 percent, and initial unemployment claims are so low they are below pre-recession rates.
The west Georgia housing market has also recovered substantially, and prices remain low. Additionally, Smith acknowledged that housing interest rates have not remained so low since the 1960s.
Smith said that while things are looking up economically, there are some intangibles that the study doesn’t cover, such as the university’s social impact on its surrounding area.
“There's the number that we put on our economic impact (as an institution), but on top that is the social impact that anyone who comes into contact with our university receives,” Smith said. “Having a university in your town improves the quality of life for everyone in that town and in the surrounding area, because those people have access to high quality education and other quality-of-life aspects. So, yes, there is the economic impact, but there is also the value of social impact. And that’s something not measured by these studies but definitely adds more value to our presence.”