Inflation, supply chain challenges, and port congestion were issues in 2022, but they didn’t stop Georgia from totaling record international trade of more than $196 billion. The state keeps racing to become a global electric vehicle hub while trying to make roads safer, and new drivers are taking the wheels of businesses anchored in state history.
International consumers are joining movie audiences in seeing “Made in Georgia” more often. The state’s exports set a record of more than $47 billion in 2022, up $5 billion from 2021. The aerospace industry was the top exporter at $9.2 billion, little changed from 2021. Agricultural and forestry exports surged 21 percent to almost $5.5 billion.
The state’s imports also set a record of more than $148 billion, up 20 percent from 2021. “Today’s success is the result of a decades-long vision shared by Georgia leaders since the first international trade offices were opened 50 years ago,” Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson says.
The 12 markets where Georgia has trade representatives—Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Europe—accounted for 52 percent of the exports and 57 percent of total trade.
Automotive exports slipped from $4.5 billion to $4.1 billion, including nearly $1 billion in parts and accessories, but there is reason to expect more soon..
EV Ecosystem Still Expanding
Sewon America announced Feb. 21 it is bringing 740 jobs to the town of Rincon (30 minutes northeast of Savannah) with a $300 million plant that will make chassis pieces for electric vehicles, especially those built at the Hyundai Motor Group’s $5.5 billion Metaplot America in Bryan County.
Don’t confuse Sewon’s announcement with the Feb. 1 news that Seoyon E-Hwa—also an American subsidiary of a South Korean company with an existing facility supplying the Kia factory in LaGrange. The enterprise is bringing 740 direct and indirect jobs to Savannah with a $76 million plant making interior items such as door and tailgate trims for Metaplant America. Currently, 500 of the Seoyon jobs are described as permanent.
The advent of the Sewon facility in Effingham County means that all four counties under the economic development authority for the Savannah region—Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham, and Effingham—have manufacturing projects for Hyundai suppliers. They represent $1.8 billion in investments.
Construction on the Hyundai plant began in early January, the Savannah Morning News reports, and Chatham County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Trip Tollison says the facility’s capacity is expanding from 300,000 to 500,000 vehicles per year.
The increase reflects rising EV demand, something also seen at SK Battery America’s two battery plants for Ford and Volkswagen EVs in Commerce. SK originally committed to hiring 2,600 workers by the end of 2024, but the company met that goal last year and now intends to expand to 3,000 employees this year.
SK is planning a bigger manufacturing center in Bartow County and has an information technology hub in Roswell.
Safer Roads for Drivers, Bikers, Walkers
The federal Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program is giving Atlanta $30 million and 20 other Georgia cities and counties a total of $6.1 million, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Feb. 1.
In addition to road improvements, Atlanta’s money will help create safe pedestrian and bicycle corridors along Central Avenue and Pryor Street to connect to the BeltLine and Downtown. The other grants, ranging from $1 million each for Athens-Clarke County and Columbus to $60,000 for Carrollton, are meant for road safety planning. The grants come as traffic fatalities are rising. Data for 2021, the most recent available, shows a 16-year high of 42,915 deaths nationwide, including 1,818 in Georgia.
Soft Landing for Aviation Family
The descendants of Georgia’s first pilot are flying into the sunset after 58 years of operating an aircraft services business at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
In a deal expected to close in March, SAR Trilogy Management is buying Epps Aviation to become part of its Aero Center chain offering services such as maintenance, fuel, and hangar space at small airports. Family-run Epps is one of three such fixed-base operators at the airport outside Atlanta. The renamed Aero Center-Epps Atlanta is keeping the 150-person workforce.
Ben Epps, the father of Epps Aviation founder Pat Epps, flew the first plane in the state in 1907.
Tomorrow Is Another Day for Tara
The Atlanta movie theater named for Scarlett O’Hara’s fictional plantation is rising again after Regal shut it down in November.
Chris Escobar, the owner of Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre, announced Feb. 21 that he is leading a team taking over the Tara, a favorite for art-house and foreign films. Magna-Tech, whose CEO, Steve Krams, is one of Escobar’s partners, is installing a digital system to supplement two sizes of film projectors.
Kenny Blank, the head of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, helped Escobar in lease negotiations with property owner Halpern Enterprises.
- Illinois-based Savant Wealth Management is expanding into Georgia by buying Atlanta investment advisory firm Capital Directions, which has two dozen employees and manages $3.3 billion in assets.
- Idea Nuova is spending $19 million to open an American Home Manufacturing plant making pillows, comforters, and quilts in Sylvania. The plant is expected to create 80 jobs.