Ports link Northeast Georgia to the world


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Georgia’s Northeast region, which stretches from the outer edges of Metro Atlanta to the state’s rural border with South Carolina, is a unique mix of urban and industrial areas, small towns and farmland.

Home to a workforce of just under 266,000, the region’s economy reflects those nuances, from the poultry farms and row crops of Walton, Morgan and Greene counties to the distribution centers in Jackson County and such major manufacturers as Caterpillar in Oconee and Clark counties.

One element all sectors of the region have in common is the Port of Savannah.

The port already supports the area’s diverse economy — whether agricultural, manufacturing or warehousing — and is almost guaranteed to play a larger role with the recent announcement of the Northeast Georgia Inland Port in Hall County, just north of the region in Gainesville.

“A good part of our economic development is tied to the port,” said Jim Shaw, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. “The recently announced inland port will serve Jackson County as well, making importing and exporting quicker and more direct.”

In addition to poultry production and manufacturing, Jackson County is home to major distribution centers — including such well-known names as Carter’s, OshKosh and Home Goods.

Already well-served by its proximity to Atlanta and the major transportation corridors of I-85 and I-20, the 12-county Northeast Region is home to more than 50 international companies that support a thriving import/export trade.

Two of the region’s most important exports — poultry and construction equipment — have grown in concert with a strengthening global economy that is demanding more and more of these Georgia-sourced products.

Far from chicken feed, Georgia’s poultry industry accounts for more than half of the state’s total agricultural output, contributing more than $38 billion to the state’s economy each year. In fact, if it were its own country, the state of Georgia would rank seventh among the world’s nations in broiler production.

“For many years, Georgia poultry producers have reached customers all over the world through the Port of Savannah,” said Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

“The GPA has done an outstanding job of investing in infrastructure improvements that have enhanced service and allowed product to move through more quickly.”

But poultry isn’t the region’s only major success story. Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is in the business of moving material, people and earth, and helping its customers across the globe build better lives. The company’s market is truly global — more than half of its sales and revenues are outside the U.S.

Caterpillar’s manufacturing plant in Athens-Clark County is the company’s global source for small track-type tractors, while also providing mini hydraulic excavators for customers in North and South America and Europe. It ships those products through Georgia Ports Authority and views the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick as essential links in its global supply chain.