Known to many as the “Empire State of the South,” Georgia has experienced tremendous growth in both economy and population during the last several years. The state is an economic powerhouse with growing global significance and a history of contributing to vital industries, like agriculture, mining, logistics, tourism, STEM fields and, increasingly, film and television production. 15 Fortune 500 companies and 26 Fortune 1,000 companies are headquartered in Georgia, including household names like Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta Airlines, and Home Depot. As of 2016, the state’s population is expected to reach 10.2435 million, making it the eighth-most-populous state in the nation. As of 2013, 9.7% of Georgia residents, or about 950,670 people, were foreign-born. This number is larger than the entire population of Austin, Texas, and grew by 64.3% between 2000 and 2013.
The majority of Georgia’s immigrants come from Mexico, India, and Korea, and about 7.4% of registered voters in the state are immigrants, meaning that they have more say in public policy than ever before. Many of Georgia’s most prominent industries are dependent on immigrant workers and entrepreneurs, who bring fresh, innovative ideas and a strong work ethic to the state.
Immigrant Economic Contribution
Immigrants play a vital role in the overall success of Georgia’s economy. They are jobs creators across all industries, and between 2006 and 2010, 63,342 immigrants became business owners in the state, and their companies earned over $2.9 billion, or about 12.3% of the state’s net business income. In the wealthy communities of the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metropolitan area, over 20.6% of business owners are immigrants as of 2013. Foreign-born business owners are highly active within their community in these areas, and operate over 37.9% of “main-street” businesses, which include accommodation and hospitality, retail, food services, and neighborhood services.
Immigrants also contribute in terms of generating tax revenue, and in 2013, Latino immigrants alone paid over $1.1 billion in federal taxes. Over 13% of Georgia’s workforce is comprised of immigrants, and they often fill roles in industries with the highest need for workers, including STEM fields.
Immigrants to Georgia tend to be innovators, as well as contributors to in-demand STEM fields. 88% of patents in 2011 from the internationally-lauded Georgia Institute of Technology, which currently has over 3,000 foreign students enrolled, had at least one immigrant contributor. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of immigrants to Georgia with college degrees rose 90.1%, meaning that they are well-equipped to handle the demands of filling economically necessary jobs.
STEM jobs in Georgia are opening faster than American-born workers can fill them, and it is estimated that by 2020, the state will have 189,830 vacant positions in these fields. High-Skilled Immigrants in Georgia are stepping up to fill these roles, as many have the advanced education and innovative outlook required for working with science and technology. Georgia’s healthcare system is also in need of qualified individuals, and immigrants are addressing this need. In 2012, 20.6% of Georgia’s physicians were immigrants. Georgia is in need of the skills and determination that immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the table, and those seeking to make a new start will find ample opportunities in the state in every industry from agriculture and retail to medicine and technology.
With a 2015 population of about 463,878 and a metropolitan area population of over 5,522,942, Atlanta is Georgia’s capital and cultural and economic center. Atlanta has a tremendous impact, both nationally and internationally, on a variety of important industries, including research, information technology, education, logistics, finance, entertainment, business and professional services, media operations, and art. Part of what drives Atlanta’s success is its position as a transportation hub. It is connected to the rest of the nation by railroad and several arterial highways and is home to the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which allows it access to business from around the globe. Because of these connections, it has always received influence from other parts of the country, causing it to stand out amongst southern cities as a particularly cosmopolitan destination. It boasts the coveted status of an “Alpha,” or “World City,” has a GDP of $270 billion, making it 36th in the world and 8th in the United States. The metropolitan area as a whole is even more impressive, with a total GDP of $304 billion, making it the 17th largest on the planet.
Atlanta’s economy is driven primarily by corporations and is home to offices for over 1,250 multinational corporations, including giants like Coca-Cola, Chick-Fil-A, Newell-Rubbermaid, AT&T Mobility, and much more. Atlanta residents are educated, with over 45% of the adult population holding bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 28% for the United States.
Part of Atlanta’s cultural appeal is the prominent film and television studios and other media outlets that call the city home. The city hosts popular networks like CNN, TBS, The Weather Channel, and NBC Universal, and Cox Enterprises. Atlanta film studios include Pinewood Studios, Turner Studios, Williams Street Productions, EUE/Screen Gems, and Tyler Perry Studios. These studios serve as filming locations for some of the most popular media available today, including blockbusters like The Hunger Games series, the comic book film dynamo, Marvel Studios, and ground-breaking television shows like The Walking Dead. Film and television production generated over $6 billion for Georgia’s economy, and has made it an international pop-culture hub. The city hosts massive pop-culture events, including Anime Weekend Atlanta, which saw 25,107 visitors in 2015, and Dragon Con, which drew over 77,000 attendees from all over the world in 2016.
Atlanta is an international hub for information technology and has gained the nickname, “the Silicon Peach” due to its involvement in software development, publishing, data processing, and entertainment. Atlanta offers over 85,000 technology-related jobs as of 2013, and jobs in these fields expanded by 4.8% in 2012 alone, with a projected 9% three-year expansion. Although the city was hit hard by the financial crisis in 2008, it has recovered admirably, earning a place on Forbes’s 2013 list of Best Places for Business and Careers.
Due to its historical and cultural significance, Atlanta has a thriving tourism industry, which generated $57.1 billion in 2014, up 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. The tourism industry supports employment across many sectors, employing an estimated 425,000 Georgians, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development reported. The city is home to historical landmarks like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It offers a huge range of activities for families, including Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest in the world, and Atlanta Botanical Garden. It hosts a vast array of colorful music festivals, like Music Midtown and the popular Atlanta Dogwood Festival. The area is a center for higher education, with over 30 top-rated universities and colleges, and even hosts three major sports teams. Overall, the city is vibrant, multicultural, and growing in every industry, making it an exceptional destination for immigrant entrepreneurs seeking a dynamic new environment to build or expand their business.
Assistance for immigrants to Georgia
Prospective immigrants to Georgia will find a wealth of resources at their fingertips. One such resource is Immigration Advocates Network, which offers links to law firms, charities, and organizations like Bridging the Gap Project, Inc., which is dedicated to helping new immigrants with everything from filing paperwork to starting their business.
For immigrant entrepreneurs, Georgia offers opportunities in a sheer variety that is unavailable in many other areas. It is expanding rapidly in every industry, and its growing economy not only welcomes foreign input and insight in in-demand fields like STEM and medicine: it requires it for its ongoing success.
About the JDC Consultancy U.S. State Featurettes
Moving to the United States to make a new start as an immigrant entrepreneur is a challenging process. Visa applicants face a huge number of critical decisions before submitting their visa application, one of the most important of which is deciding which State will offer the best environment for their business to grow and thrive, and provide the optimal environment for their families. Each State has its own opportunities and industry specializations, and a company that sees tremendous growth in one State might not see the same results in another.
In order to help its clients decide which State will serve as the most advantageous home base, both for their businesses and their families, and further streamline the visa application process, JDC Consultancy publishes brief overviews of what each State has to offer its immigrant entrepreneurs. These featurettes showcase each State’s strengths, in this case, Atlanta and Georgia, and provide valuable insight and statistics to help immigrant entrepreneurs make the all-important decision of which State they, and their businesses, should call home.