Augusta economy vibrant

Metro area has state's strongest job growth

ATLANTA --- Augusta has Georgia's strongest economy this year, is the only metro area adding jobs and will remain the most vibrant next year, according to a quarterly outlook released Wednesday.

In the report by the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, job growth in Augusta this year will wind up at 1.1 percent compared with a reduction statewide of 1.5 percent. The forecast describes the statewide picture as a significant decline.

Next year, Augusta is still going to lead the state and all its major cities with 2 percent job growth. The state will be growing again, but only by 1 percent.

Metro Augusta added 2,400 jobs in the first-three quarters of the year, including 1,500 between July and October, a 1.8 percent increase over employment levels in 2009.

Two examples of growth in the area cited by the forecast are hiring for construction at Plant Vogtle and the 400 new jobs at Atlanta-based Convergent, a company that collects payments for wireless companies and utilities.

Augusta's sectors adding the most workers include hospitality, business services, education/health and construction. They overcome the sectors shedding jobs: the government and retail.

Looking ahead, companies that sell overseas should benefit from the policy of the Federal Reserve Bank that is weakening the value of the dollar, but robust growth is unlikely because of other economic factors, according to the quarterly outlook.

"Since Georgia relies on exports, the weaker dollar will boost exports, particularly toward emerging economies," said Rajeev Dhawan, the director of the center.

Augusta has been working with existing manufacturers such as E-Z-Go, Solo Cup, International Paper and Procter & Gamble, which together have added roughly 500 jobs, according to Walter Sprouse, of the Development Authority of Richmond County.