By Strategic Passive Investments
Real estate investors know that the market is everything. And when investors say, “the market,” they almost never mean the national housing market. They mean the local housing market and the factors that affect it! For this reason, being well-informed about state policies that might affect your investment is imperative. Furthermore, being able to identify positive policies that have long-term, positive effects – ideally regardless of party changes at a state level and, to some degree, regardless of economic cycles – can enable you to buy in markets that are most likely to grow and prosper over time.
One state that has spent the past few decades building a remarkable reputation as a business-friendly, investor-friendly place to be is the state of Georgia. Regardless of whether an investor “likes” the current governor or agrees with partisan politics in the area, the state has continued to grow and thrive – and to help the investors and businesses that call it home do so likewise – throughout multiple economic cycles and, in some markets, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watching other states for similar policies can help you identify potential markets for solid future investments.
Here are four things the state of Georgia has done to attract and retain prosperity:
Created Job Tax Credits Across the Board
Remember when Amazon announced it was looking for a city to host its second headquarters, HQ2? All sorts of cities jumped into the running, often offering Amazon huge tax breaks, lots of job tax credits, and all sorts of forgivable loans and grant money to help get the massive new headquarters built. This led to some pretty unpleasant political showdowns when resident businesses in those cities wanted to know where their tax and job credits were!
Georgia is a great state for job tax credits – in fact, Amazon recently snagged a deal in Macon, Georgia, whereby it might be able to get a $1.8 million tax break in exchange for 600 jobs created – but Georgia does something a little different. Georgia creates the tax breaks and then applies them across the board, meaning that all businesses that meet certain requirements while creating jobs in the state qualify for those tax credits. If a city wants to extend more credits to attract a certain corporation, it can, but the state already has a great job tax credit incentive plan in place and updates it regularly to make sure it appeals to corporations in the sectors that will most benefit the state by moving there.
Identified Target Businesses Offering Above-Average Pay & Work Experience
When the Georgia Department of Economic Development sets its sights on a company it hopes will move to Georgia or expand into the state, the department is not just looking for quantity. It wants jobs of a higher quality, which often translates to jobs that are recession-resistant, are known for providing quality work environments or strong benefits packages, and that pay higher than the average wage in the county hoping to attract the business.
In some cases, this happens at the city level and the state simply steps in to assist with attracting the company. In other cases, the state itself sets eyes on the prize. A good example of a state-level company “courtship” is the state’s successful luring away of the headquarters of National Cash Register (NCR), which moved from Dayton, Ohio, to the Atlanta, Georgia area, in 2009. The state offered the company an attractive stimulus package paired with geographic advantages including a low cost of living and one of the most competitive workforces in the country, since at the time Georgia was the only state that guaranteed a free college education to students scoring a B average or better through its HOPE Scholarship program. NCR also cited Georgia’s lower tax rates and its “commitment to business relationships.” Essentially, Georgia’s longstanding determination to attract and retain businesses stood it in good stead when it brought this Fortune 500 company south.
Active Involvement from Local Policymakers
Another thing that Georgians seem to (mostly) see eye-to-eye on is how important it is to keep good employers in the state. This has helped the state build a reputation of having “that good old southern hospitality” when it comes to hosting the massive production teams that accompany movie and television shows filming in “The Hollywood of the South.” Early in production for hit post-apocalyptic horror series The Walking Dead, the mayor of a local town helped the production crew navigate the process of getting a local bridge and several streets shut down for filming. The personal involvement made an impression, and The Walking Dead still calls Georgia home. Now, Georgia has played host to dozens of hit movies, including a vast array of Marvel films, and, in 2015, the state opened the Georgia Film Academy to ensure that companies can easily hire qualified, knowledgeable talent to work on their productions. During COVID-19 shutdowns, the state’s determination to keep as many people as possible working enabled some studios to get back to production sooner while still adhering to safety protocols.
Boasting One of the Busiest Ports in the World
Okay, so not every state can have a port like the Port of Savannah, which handled more than 5.3 million containers during the pandemic and experienced the “most intense growth in its history,” as the Georgia Ports Authority chairman Joel Wooten described it, between June 2020 and June 2021. However, looking for markets with essential, recession-resistant infrastructure like Georgia’s ports is a great way to identify markets that are likely to grow and thrive even when things get tough.
Ports and other transport or shipping hubs are good earmarks for potentially strong real estate markets, but only if the state hosting these hubs works diligently to cultivate a population willing and able to work in these industries and can offer housing affordable to that population. As part of the southeast, Georgia tends to offer relatively low costs of living and relatively affordable housing simply because there is more land available for development in the state than in other states around the country. Furthermore, the state government has, again, striven to keep housing affordable and developers involved in the state. For this reason, the Georgia Ports Authority is able to expand whenever necessary with confidence that its workers will be able to find suitable housing.