Good news about 2010's economy: It didn't get any worse

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Even if the economy was not the story in 2010 that it was the year prior, it still was a concern in Georgia, South Carolina and across the country.

"Last year, this point was pretty much the low point of the business cycle," said Dr. Toma.

A year didn't make all the difference for the local economy, but in 2010, business in the Coastal Empire did show positive signs of change. They are signs Dr. Michael Toma of the Center for Regional Analysis says ranged from slight to dramatic and represented both relief and promise.

"In the Savannah Metropolitan area, which is Bryan County, Chatham County, Effingham County, our economy grew slowly this year, below normal growth rates for us." said Dr. Toma.

But compared to many other places, in Georgia and across the nation, the good news about 2010 was that it was not worse.

The best news was that 2011 will almost certainly be better. There were improvements made this year.

"Particularly in the port, we've seen huge rebounds in port activity and now we're up about 25 percent from where we were last year," Dr. Toma told WTOC. "And there's another manufacturer, smaller manufacturer in town, I think they manufacture pet beds. There's also some new warehouse distribution facility opening up that i think will employ 100 to 150."

And in the final weeks of the year, the start of hiring at a new Walmart store on Savannah's southside was also encouraging.

"It's exciting to be able to put 250 jobs on the market with the economy the way it is," said Walmart Manager David Henry.

"it's a good sign that the job market is starting to get, seems to be opening back up again," said Walmart applicant Ishmael Heywood.

But most of the movement this year was toward what is shaping up as a more prosperous next year.

Gulfstream, whose unexpected layoffs signified the area's challenges of 2009, announced expansion plans in November of 2010, a new $500 million facility that will bring 1,000 jobs to the area over the next several years.

"Every job is important in Georgia today, but high tech manufacturing of a sustainable industry is very, very important," said Governor Perdue.

Nearly two years after cutting 250 jobs, JCB unveiled a new line of loader to be made at their Savannah facility. They announced it would be adding 200 positions by the end of 2011.

"The good this about this project or this product is it will be exported worldwide from savannah, so we get the benefit of a worldwide market rather than a domestic North American market." said JCB guy

Meanwhile, Mitsubushi Power Systems, which is already up and running on the former supersite in Savannah, continued progressing closer to being fully operational and fully staffed.

"So we are going to see some growth in our employment numbers in 2011, particularly in manufacturing, which is good news because these manufacturing jobs tend to pay a very high wage on a relative basis and that's where we need to see some growth," said Dr. Toma.

Another area where needed improvement was delivered this year was Savannah's tourism industry, which rebounded strongly from a dip in 2009 to resume its role as the local economy's lead horse.

"Using hotel and motel tax collections really as the benchmark and really the purest way to know how we're doing," said Visit Savannah President Joe Marinelli. "We're up about 12 percent over where we were a year ago. Actually, with a little bit of luck here in December, we may finish 2010 as having the best tourism year in the history of the city. So far, September, October and November we've been pacing right about the same numbers we had in '07 and '08 with a strong month in December, we'll actually finish the year with the best year ever."

Overall business in the Coastal Empire won't share that view of this year, just the excitement that an even better year appears to be on the way.

"2011 should out perform 2010. I definitely agree with that." Dr. Toma told WTOC.

And that should be perfectly agreeable information for the entire area.

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