The Tuesday announcement of aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney’s $386 million investment and expansion at its Moon Road plant in Columbus was about as lovely a Valentine’s Day gift for this city, region and state as we could have wished for.
The project is expected to create more than 500 jobs over the next five years. To get some perspective on the size of that workforce increase, the Columbus P&W complex currently employs some 1,200 workers at three sites.
Gov. Nathan Deal announced the good news jointly with, among others, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Pratt & Whitney executives, members of the Columbus legislative delegation and officials of the Georgia and Greater Columbus Chambers of Commerce and the Columbus Development Authority.
Deal alluded to “Georgia’s pro-business structural framework and deep talent pool,” and Tomlinson said the city is committed to keeping the United Technologies subsidiary, which has operated in Columbus since 1984, “growing in our community for decades to come.”
The immediate benefits of this major investment in the local economy aren’t limited to jobs and infrastructure, as significant as those are. Columbus Technical College is also involved, as P&W said the college will offer programs in aerospace mechanics and advanced manufacturing technologies to train workers for the high-skill jobs the expansion will demand — what Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Gretchin Corbin called “world-class standards.”
The old mill jobs are gone. The high-tech, high-skill, high-paying jobs are replacing them. The transition has been a painful one for many, but the big picture doesn’t show much reason for nostalgia.
The web headline in ajc.com, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s online edition, reads: “Georgia scores major victory in water wars feud with Florida.” Just how major it is, how lasting a victory it is, and how much of Georgia it’s really a victory for are yet to be determined.
Ralph Lancaster, the Maine attorney appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be a “special master” in Florida’s legal complaint against Georgia for allegedly hogging the waters of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, Tuesday recommended to the high court that it reject Florida’s claim.
Georgia’s neighbor to the South, Lancaster wrote, had “failed to show that a consumption cap” was needed or justified by Florida’s claims that upstream overuse had caused downstream environmental damage, particularly to Apalachicola Bay’s fishery and oyster industries.
That means, in effect, that for now Georgia has unlimited access to the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) basin, specifically Lake Lanier, which supplies the water needs of sprawling metro Atlanta.
Of course, as the AJC notes, the court is not bound by Lancaster’s recommendation, nor does his decision prevent the federal Legislative Branch from getting involved in the interstate issue, which also, as this area well knows, involves Alabama. And of course, there could be more lawsuits.
But for the moment, Georgia has the lead. That part of it from Atlanta northward, anyway.