Augusta Economy

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City's rankings might matter little to companies

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Since 2008, Augusta has appeared in 20 national rankings, receiving high marks for being the “most resilient metro economy,” providing its residents with the “best bang for their buck” and having one of the “strongest building markets for housing.”

Local business recruiters refer to the accolades as the city’s “bragging points” in luring major industry to set up shop in Augusta.

But with publications and industry think tanks keeping no record or traceable origin of their rating systems, some question whether these lists carry any weight.

According to state economic developers and business executives, market research studies by Forbes, Business Week and the Brookings Institute have little influence in company site selection. Professionals say it’s the information the reports provide that holds great importance, all of which is public record and readily available through the federal government.

“For us, the decision to move to Augusta was influenced by observations we made in our own research,” said Andrew Ross, the president of Rockwood Per­formance Additives, which has not yet started construction of its $115 million plant that will bring 80 to 100 jobs to the area. “I can’t say we looked at any national surveys.”

While scouting Augusta in 2011, Ross said, Rockwood looked at the city’s job-skill market, the relationship Richmond County has with its industrial base and the strength of the area’s infrastructure and manufacturing community before making its decision.

Each quality received high scores, which according to Forbes, Business Week and The Brookings Institute is not by mistake.

Most of the categories are at the core of the research the three conduct for their rankings. Though each has its own methodology, all depend on three key indicators – job growth, gross metropolitan product and home price index – and a law of averages to reach its findings. Data for the reports is taken from the Census and Labor Statistics bureaus, Federal Housing Finance Agency and U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and overall are a major help in “telling the world who Augusta is,” said Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the city’s Economic Development Authority.

“When it comes down to brass tacks, the things that sell Augusta is what we call the ‘business specifics’ that a company must have to be profitable – infrastructure, utility rates, workforce training – and these lists draw attention to those qualities,” Sprouse said.

He said his organization often references Augusta’s rankings in its marketing materials, during presentations and online, primarily when companies are in the thick of selecting a site to grow or expand.

Last year, the city, which typically tries to lure one of the 30 prospects it targets annually, persuaded four companies to choose Augusta, including Starbucks, which in July broke ground on a $172 million manufacturing plant that will house
140 new employees, Sprouse said.

“Our job is to get in front of these site selection committees, and it’s not real economical to do it by getting in the car and driving around a four-state region to find potential clients,” Sprouse said. “We live in a digital age and we need to accept that.”

The Augusta Metro Chamb­er of Commerce has embraced the power of the Internet, listing on its Web site almost all of the top rankings Augusta has received in the past five years. President Sue Parr calls the ratings “bragging points.”

Parr said the “more national the publication, the more recognition Augusta receives,” and likely so. Busi­ness Week, Forbes and U.S. News and World Report are known as the leading information source for business leaders, reaching more than 3 million executives daily, according to records.

But what the publications lack in their research is keeping records on their rankings.

Vanessa Wong, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg Busi­ness Week, the publication that has rated Augusta most, said the magazine does not “keep a count of all the rankings we do,” nor does it keep a running history of the studies it has performed to analyze the economic impact of the lists.

“A ranking can highlight areas in the country where certain businesses may find opportunities,” Wong said. “They are done to provide a snapshot of the state of local economies.”

Last week, Starbucks would not say whether it consulted national rankings when considering Augusta. The coffee giant would only verify that it reviews “many factors,” an assessment Ali­son Tyrer, the director of communications for the Geor­­gia Department of Eco­nomic Development, said is accurate.

“Rankings have a varying degree on interest in the business community,” Tyrer said. “Depending on a company’s priorities, it can play a large role in the site selection process for some businesses or in other cases, have a very small influence.”

Tyrer stressed that does not mean the rankings are not credible, scientific or valid.

MAJOR RANKINGS FOR THE CITY OF AUGUSTA
ORGANIZATIONSTUDYRANKING
Business WeekStrongest Building Markets for Housing6
 America’s 25 Next Recovering Job Markets11
 30 Strongest U.S. Housing Markets21
 40 Strongest Metro Economies23
ForbesBest Bang for Buck Cities5
 Fastest Recovering U.S. Cities22
 Cities Where Americans are Getting Richer44
Brookings InstituteStrongest-Performing Metro in U.S.2
 Most Resilient Metro Economy in U.S.7
 Top Cities for Economic Performance18
Grey House PublishingAmerica’s 16 Top-rated Cities1
U.S. News & World ReportBest Places to Retire for Under $40,0002
SN/Money MagazineMost Recession-proof City in U.S.2
Engine AdvocacyTop 25 Metros for High-Tech Job Growth2
The Daily BeastBest American Cities for Moms9
Southeast ConstructionBest City for New Housing Construction9
NewsGeography.comBest Midsize Cities for Job Growth20
Milliken InstituteBest Job-performing cities82
Portfolio.comTop 100 Fun Cities89
Southern Business and Development MagazineTop Comeback Cities of the South10
Comments (7) Add comment
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Gage Creed
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Gage Creed 05/19/13 - 02:57 pm
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Stop the presses! I have

Stop the presses! I have been repeatedly told that we are the 4th best, there must be some mistake...You do not have a 4th best ranking! How can that be??? Surely there is an error! (Sarcasm off) Mr. Brown validates the argument that these rankings are no more than window dressing, and that the important numbers are the information contained in the reports that have to do with the workforce and if the local government is pro-industry.

GnipGnop
12744
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GnipGnop 05/19/13 - 03:37 pm
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This is going to....

hurt someone's feelings...

rational thought trumps emotion
2682
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rational thought trumps emotion 05/19/13 - 07:38 pm
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The rankings still help

Just because one person says they didn't use them doesn't change anything. They may not be great but it is part of marketing and it certainly does not hurt to have Kudos from outside agencies. If you support our area, you support all of the good things we have going for us as well.

Gage Creed
19399
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Gage Creed 05/19/13 - 08:28 pm
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So if publication "A" rates

So if publication "A" rates Augusta as one of the ten best places to retire and Augusta is courting young professionals for future growth, isn't that somewhat counter-productive?

rebellious
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rebellious 05/20/13 - 06:23 am
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Countyman

is really not gonna be happy on this article. Although I bet he will look for the pony that left the pile of horse manure.

bdouglas
5777
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bdouglas 05/20/13 - 07:42 am
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I bet he'll have something to

I bet he'll have something to say that starts with "I find it funny that...", followed by a list of other projects that are coming (but haven't started building), with a few lol's thrown in for good measure.

I tend to get the feeling from many of those published "rankings" that they are little more than paid-for publicity similar to those "Who's Who" books that get peddled to a lot of high school and college parents. Pay us this much and we'll publish your city in our yearly rankings of "Top Places to Have A Major Illness" and give you 5 framed copies of the magazine for your CVB offices.

soapy_725
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soapy_725 05/20/13 - 08:39 am
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Most important atributes
Unpublished

1)No taxes for five or more years. Then reduced taxes.

2)Available work force that can perform at a level above McDonald's.
Available workforce that does not have to retrained each and every day.
Available workforce that can do more that talk on a telephone.

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