Originally created 12/13/01

Recession will skim Augusta



ATLANTA - Augusta is poised to face the current recession better than any major city in the state, University of Georgia economists said Wednesday.

In addition, Gov. Roy Barnes says he plans to borrow money to speed the state toward a recovery that economists predict for later next year.

In the meantime Augusta's previous hard times, while the rest of the state was enjoying an economic boom, have toughened the city enough to help it escape this recession with little damage.

Analysts with the Selig Center for Economic Growth, in the university's business college, forecast a loss next year of only 200 jobs, just 0.1 percent of the area's work force, compared with 0.8 percent for the state and 1.2 percent for Savannah.

They point to the city's health-care industry as buoying the local economy and the many telemarketing centers that have sprung up in the area since the last recession. Other industries with a large presence in the region - notably pharmaceuticals and food processing - are also doing better than the economy as a whole.

Recovery won't come until the middle of next year, the university forecast. But hopeful signs are already evident.

Inflation is under control. Interest rates are unusually low. The state has a $1 billion cushion. And consumers are stockpiling cash for the day when they do decide to spend and invest.

"As the recession eases, Georgia's recovery will be faster and stronger than the rest of the country," Mr. Benson said.

To boost the recovery, Gov. Roy Barnes said the state has three initiatives. One pumps $8.3 billion into building highways and rail lines. A second consolidates all government telecommunications within the state into a single contract to assure cutting-edge services vital to high-tech employers are available in every county.

Details of a third initiative will be announced next month.

Reach Walter C. Jones and Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.