New report from Georgia Southern University shows slowing economy in Savannah

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Southern University’s regional economic monitor paints a slowing picture of Savannah’s economy.

In the first quarter of this year, the report says Savannah port traffic has slowed and construction permits for new area homes were down 7% from a year ago.

“The big headline is that the economy continues to slow and has grown at its slowest pace in the first quarter of this year since exiting the pandemic recession,” said Dr. Michael Toma.

Dr. Michael Toma is an economics professor at Georgia Southern University.

He says the U.S. economy will likely experience a recession in the half of this year.

Despite the projected economic slowdown, Toma says investments in port upgrades and hiring at Hyundai and other logistics plants could help the area sidestep any impacts.

“The speed at which those entities, Hyundai and the suppliers, hire in the back half of the year really will contribute a lot to whether or not we have just an okay year or a better than okay year.”

The report says the area’s tourism industry led the region in modest growth with hotel and vacation rental tax receipts up 5.2%.

That growth...leaving tourism leaders optimistic the industry can survive a potential recession...with many visitors choosing to drive to the Hostess City instead of flying.

“One of the first things to go during economic downturn is air travel. We still have plenty of visitors, and we did through 2008, that came from our largest feeder markets which are drive markets. They’re close enough to drive and not one to fly,” said Michael Owens, the president and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council.

Even with economic concerns later this year, Toma says Savannah’s diverse set of industries will leave the city relatively unscathed by a recession.

“Because we have continued growth in logisitics and development and construction employment and the tourism industry is quite solid at this point in terms of its growth trajectroy, Savannah’s experience through this projected recession is going to be relatively a nonevent.”

It’s important to note that even with that projected economic downturn, Tom says Savannah has outperformed Georgia’s state economy for many quarters.