Georgia Mountains Region features diverse economic opportunities


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Spread amid the splendid scenery of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 13 counties at the northeast edge of the state of Georgia can also tout a tall range of business opportunities, workplace advantages, and lifestyle attractions.

The region is “extremely diverse” in its economic makeup, and has seen “steady growth” in several important sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and agritourism, logistics and transportation, and the film and television industry, said Heather J. Feldman, the executive director of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, which provides planning, technical, and development assistance to the counties, and their 38 municipalities.

Its many other attributes include a significant stretch on the South’s automobile alley, the Interstate 85 corridor that connects the Mercedes plant in Alabama, the Kia plant in Georgia, and the BMW plant in South Carolina. Several automotive companies, including ZF Industries, a global leader in drivetrain and chassis technology, and IMS Gear, a specialist in transmission technology, have built factories in Northeast Georgia to join this network.

Companies operating in the area are expected to benefit from the Appalachian Regional Port, a GPA-operated rail terminal set to open in Chatsworth, Ga., in 2018. The inland port model means exports can be trucked for shorter distances and staged at the intermodal yard, where they are loaded onto trains moving hundreds of containers in a single trip. Additionally, by staging cargo closer to population centers, rail-served inland terminals aid the fast delivery required by ecommerce retailers.

Interstate 985, a spur of I-85, runs up to the city of Gainesville, the county seat of Hall County, and a nationally recognized hub for development. The area is among the 50 fastest growing metropolitan districts in the country, and, according to Forbes Magazine, is one of the “best small places for businesses and careers” for the past four years.

Other locales in the Georgia Mountains Region have also lodged recent success stories. To name just a few:

  • Forsyth County, where Sports Warehouse, a global retail supplier of sports and outdoor equipment, will create 300 jobs and invest $14 million as part of an East Coast e-commerce distribution center;
  • Hart County, where Lake Foods will double its workforce with an $8 million expansion, creating 130 new jobs and introducing a variety of different products;
  • And Dahlonega, where Sony Pictures will film “Hail Mary,” a television movie about a small-town mayor who orchestrates an elaborate hoax to save the struggling community from ruin.

In all, 47 international companies have built facilities in the region.

Another number – 7,000,000 – also stands out. It’s the number of annual visitors, brought there by its forests, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, historic sites, museums, state parks, vineyards, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, and, in the case of Dahlonega, gold mine.

It’s a combination of natural wonders and outdoor attractions, said Feldman, that are “unique from the rest of the state.”