Population shifts are probably the simplest economic indicator to understand.
Generally, people congregate in prosperous areas and steer clear of downtrodden places. And they rarely put down roots in places with poor quality-of-life measures.
So when a state’s population climbs – as Georgia’s and South Carolina’s each did again last year – it’s a sign things are mostly hunky-dory.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia’s population grew by an estimated 115,759 last year; and South Carolina’s by 64,547. Those growth rates put them at No. 6 and No. 10, respectively, on the list of states with the biggest numeric gains.
On the flip side, eight states – led by Illinois – lost people between 2016 and 2017.
The census estimates are somewhat supported by reports from two major moving companies – U-Haul and Atlas Van Lines – that tracked the comings and goings of their customers in 2017.
For example, Atlas’ ranking of Idaho as the No. 1 “inbound” destination corresponds to census data showing the Gem State had the highest growth percentage in 2017 (2.2 percent), and that Illinois, which the government said lost 33,703 people, was its No. 1 “outbound” state.
But in other ways, the company’s figures are at odds with the government estimates. U-Haul, for instance, ranks Georgia as No. 41 on the growth list despite federal figures that show only five states – Texas, Florida, California, Washington and North Carolina –added more people to its population rolls.
U-Haul, in fact, classifies Georgia as a “balanced state” because one-way truck rentals were almost equally split between arrivals and departures – 49.9 percent to 50.1 percent. Interestingly, the Phoenix-based company ranks South Carolina as the No. 4 growth state.
One could make a case U-Haul’s figures are somewhat skewed by its appeal to budget-conscious do-it-yourselfers who don’t have much to move. Its perhaps not a coincidence that U-Haul’s top arrival destinations in Georgia – Atlanta, Kennesaw and Athens – also happen to be major college towns.
PLANET ATLANTA: Census figures put Georgia’s total 2017 population at 10.4 million people. You probably heard at some point during the past two years that metro Atlanta by itself is expected to hit nearly 8 million people by 2040. The Atlanta Regional Commission made that estimate and so far nothing has happened to indicate they were in left field.
In fact, a recent report by web-based real estate company Redfin shows Atlanta is the fifth-ranked destination for movers based on a sample of more than 1 million Redfin users searching for homes between July and September, mostly from higher-cost markets in the Northeast.
Of course, Atlanta’s growth curve will be steepened dramatically if Amazon selects it as the site of its second corporate headquarters this year. The $5 billion prize, known as “HQ2,” is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs.
MINIMUM-WAGE WOES: The bulk of Amazon’s jobs would be in the six-figure range, which would no doubt skew salaries and rents throughout the metro area. If Atlanta gets HQ2 – and it has better-than-average chances – I predict a movement to raise the city’s minimum wage would ensue, as it has in most of the West Coast’s high-tech/high-cost/left-leaning markets.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed already has municipal employees on a path to a $15-per-hour minimum wage by the next fiscal year, so it’s probably only a matter of time before fast-food workers, hotel employees and others start demanding parity.
Neither Georgia nor South Carolina were among the three dozen states and cities – from Alaska to Washington and Albuquerque, N.M., to Sunnyvale, Calif. – that raised their minimum wages this year. California is leading the pack, with plans to have a statewide $15 minimum wage phased in by 2022.
That will cost the Golden State some 400,000 jobs, according to estimates by the Washington D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute. That seems plausible. If you make employees more expensive, employers will want fewer of them.
DOLLARS AND SENSE: Stick an imaginary pin in the center of downtown Augusta. Now draw a 20-mile circle around it. Guess how many Dollar General stores there are in that radius?
The 39th, by the way, is being built at 3156 Wrightsboro Road, across from the Campus Side Apartments on a 1.7-acre tract between the quickie mart and the plasma center. The building recently tore down was a Shoney’s long ago.
LAKE. BIG LAKE: The improved housing market has apparently reached the lakeshores. Alabama-based Lake Homes Realty, which lists properties at more than 600 lakes in 16 states, said listings for Lake Strom Thurmond-Clarks Hill increased 21.7 percent during the last three quarters of 2017, with total on-the-market property values hitting $47.8 million.
Georgia – specifically the metro areas of Augusta and Atlanta – searched the most for Thurmond Lake properties on Lakehomes.com, followed by Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.
The site’s total visits in 2017 – 4.6 million – were 60 percent higher than the previous year’s.
DESPERATELY SEEKING BREVITY: We call the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation “Freddie Mac” and the Federal National Mortgage Association “Fannie Mae.”
Doesn’t the Georgia Technology Authority’s Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training deserve a moniker?
My vote is for “Hullie Mac.” What’s yours?
BACK TO THE STREET: Sherman & Hemstreet recently announced David L. Moretz has rejoined its commercial sales team. Moretz oversaw commercial sales and leasing for the company from 1993 to 2000. Moretz also operated his own brokerage, Moretz & Associates Realty.
The licensed agent for 28 years holds the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors designation and is a past president of the Summerville Neighborhood Association.
Sherman & Hemstreet said he spent the past four years between Augusta and Little Rock, Ark., where his wife, Julie, was the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ associate vice chancellor for patient- and family-centered care. She is now chief experience officer and associate vice president Augusta University Medical Center.
If the Arkansas institution sounds familiar, it’s because that is where former Medical College of Georgia President Dan Rahn served as chancellor from 2009 until his retirement last summer. The institution this month announced it is laying off nearly 600 people, including doctors and faculty members, to address a $30 million budget shortfall.
BANKER, LEADER, STATESMAN: Among his other jobs, David Moretz also served as a staffer for former U.S. Congressman D. Douglas Barnard Jr., who died this past week at age 95.
Barnard was best known as representative of Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, but before that he was a titan in the banking industry, where he helped influence two generations of bank leaders as executive vice president of Georgia Railroad Bank.
His work in Washington helped Augusta breach its levee to create downtown’s most prominent natural attraction: the Riverwalk. That achievement alone is enough to cement his legacy. (And yes, it did take an act of Congress for us to be able to walk along our river.)
To those who knew him, Barnard will probably best be remembered as a loyal friend. Case in point: He never played favorites among the bankers he helped “school” at Georgia Railroad when they went out on their own in the ’80s and ’90s to form rival community banks that eventually coalesced into the two biggies – Georgia Bank & Trust and First Bank of Georgia.
Barnard kept accounts at both institutions and made it a point to attend each of their ribbon-cutting ceremonies every time a new branch opened. The banks may have been fierce crosstown competitors, but their leaders were all his friends. And Barnard wanted all his friends to succeed.
SPEAKING OF BANKING: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Georgia office announced loaning a record $1.41 billion in 2017, which is more than any other state except California and New York. The agency guarantied 1,876 loans, primarily through its flagship 7(a) and 504 programs.
Businesses engaged in hospitality, retail, health care, professional services, agriculture and manufacturing saw the most growth, accounting for more than $1.06 billion, or 75 percent, of the total lending activity.
CHAMBER’S CHOICE AWARDS: The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for its Lifetime Achievement, Small Business of the Year and Large Business of the Year awards.
The honors will be presented Feb. 8 at the chamber’s 13th annual Banquet and Business Showcase at the Columbia County Exhibition Center in Grovetown.
South State Bank is serving as the presenting sponsor, but other sponsorship opportunities are available. For registrations, nominations or sponsorships, call (706) 651-0018 or email email@example.com.
BREES ON IN: A Baton Rouge, La.-based restaurant chain co-owned by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, is reportedly looking to expand into Georgia and the Carolinas.
Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, which specializes in a Louisiana cuisine (gumbo, po boys, cocktails, etc.), has inked an agreement with an Arkansas-based franchisee to bring 11 Walk-Ons to the three-state region starting this fall. Augusta and Savannah are on the Georgia list.
“With hundreds of restaurant brands across the country, it’s hard to find one that has a unique offering as well as a mass appeal, but Walk-On’s definitely fits the bill,” said Jason Sadowski, whose family last year sold its nine-unit group of McDonald’s restaurants.
Sadowski and wife Amy are targeting the South Carolina markets of Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach. Brees invested in the 15-unit chain in 2015. It was started by Brandon Landry, a high school basketball star who earned a “walk-on” spot on Louisiana State University’s Tigers basketball team from 1997-2000.
WINGING IT: Aiken is due to get a Wild Wing Cafe later this year in the Hitchcock Plaza shopping center, the Aiken Standard reported.
The regional wings-and-beer chain would occupy the building at 470 Fabian Drive, which previously housed another regional chain, Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar. The Italian eatery closed more than a year ago.
The Wild Wing franchisee, John Mole Jr. of the Barnwell, S.C., Mole Funeral Home family, told the newspaper the restaurant could open as early as May.
Augusta’s Wild Wing opened in 2004.
FORKS TO FORKLIFTS: Look for North Carolina-based G&W Equipment Inc. to be opening an office in Augusta this year as the forklift distributor expands across Georgia.
G&W, which already represents Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America in the Carolinas, plans to open branches in Augusta, Savannah, Atlanta and a yet-to-be-identified market in south Georgia. The family owned-company, founded in 1963, did not identify specific sites.
G&W also handles sales, service and rentals for Caterpillar and Jungheinrich warehouse equipment products.
NO STOPPING THE TRANE: The local offices for heating and air conditioning company Trane Inc. have been relocated from 3342 Commerce Drive, just off North Leg Road, to a brand-new 35,000-square-foot office at 1709 Barton Chapel Road.
The facility, built late last year near the Barton Chapel-Sharon Road intersection, will house Trane’s commercial and residential divisions.
SOON-TO-EXPAND: Augusta contractor Yohe Plumbing Heating & Air has filed plans with Richmond County to build a 5,000-square-foot office and 10,000-square-foot warehouse on 3.2 acres next to its existing offices at 1017 Franke Industrial Drive.
The plans indicate the company would occupy the vacant tracts at 1110-1120 Franke Place Court, a cul-de-sac street off Franke Industrial.
HOLIDAY SALES REQUIEM: You are probably soooooo over the holiday shopping season, but you might be interested in one more tidbit before the whole thing starts up next September (see what I did there?).
Womply, a software firm for small and midsized merchants, pulled card-based transaction data from 200 metro Augusta businesses in November and December and found that Black Friday was the busiest revenue day, with stores reporting 191 percent of their average daily revenue the day after Thanksgiving.
The last-minute shopping day of Dec. 23 was the next biggest, at 148 percent of annual revenue, followed by Small Business Saturday’s 137 percent.
Those percentages were nearly identical to 2016: Black Friday, 182 percent; Dec. 23, 146 percent; and Small Business Saturday, 138 percent.
So what does that all mean? I’d say it means local consumers decide to “shop local” when they feel like it, not when they’re supposed to.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.