Timothy Mescon: Driving economic development

July 2, 2014 

Economic health and vitality are the catalysts for growth and enhancing the quality of life.

Consequently, kudos are due for state Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr and Gov. Nathan Deal for leaping eight places this year and guiding our state to CNBC's No. 1 ranking among the Top States to Do Business. (And they're currently busy, with Consul General Opher Aviran, seeking direct foreign investment in Georgia from world-class technology companies in Israel.)

Working with the much respected National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness, CNBC collects and then disaggregates extensive data into 10 broad categories contributing to business climate attractiveness. The comprehensive climate classifications include: cost of doing business, economy, infrastructure and transportation, workforce, quality of life, technology and innovation, business friendliness, education, cost of living and access to capital. Of critical value to Georgia's ranking is the ongoing investment into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the focused commitment on the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick.

An essential element in the ranking is the multi-year commitment made by Gov. Deal to Georgia's role in the Complete College American program, supported enthusiastically by the University System of Georgia (31 institutions, 315,000 students) and the Technical College System (25 institutions, 175,000 students). These partner higher ed systems have committed to increase student degree completion and job readiness numbers by 250,000 in the immediate future.

To reinforce this level of access, yet focusing on affordability, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved a 2.5 percent tuition increase for this fall for almost all of the system's institutions. The USG has frontally attacked affordability, encouraging aggressive institutional efforts to create need-based support programs. These will most certainly continue to contribute to reinforcing Georgia's rankings and sustaining the most important flow of a quality workforce.

At Columbus State University, our commitment to affordability with quality is keen. Internationally or nationally accredited programs in such programs as business, education, nursing, chemistry, music, art and theater ensure a best-of-class standard that is essential in a globally competitive context.

First among 50 is a great accomplishment, and getting to the top is a long and arduous process. However, falling from grace can happen in the blink of an eye. Challenges tied to incubating start-ups are being addressed by the Advance Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech and by entrepreneurs David Cummings and Michael Tavani in Atlanta, but we need many more.

Likewise access to capital continues to challenge many entrepreneurs, and Georgia continues to explore opportunities to create more venture funding opportunities to retain entrepreneurial talent. Collectively, all these efforts contribute mightily to enhancing quality of life and reinforcing the notion that Georgia is a great place to do business.

Timothy Mescon, president of Columbus State University; mescon_timothy@columbusstate.edu.

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