May 6, 2014

Cagle touts state’s investment in transportation

— What’s the difference between most Southern states and Georgia?

According to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, it is investment in transportation hubs, specifically Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and the port in Savannah.

“Georgia is the capital of the South,” he said. “No one really else compares.”

Cagle, a Republican, spoke to the Rotary Club of Dalton Tuesday afternoon about how the state economy is poised to grow in the next 10 years because of “smart decisions” that have made it more accessible globally.

“We didn’t just become that by doing nothing,” he said. “We are in a place and time in history to take advantage of phenomenal opportunities going forward. ... Back in the 1970s, Birmingham and Atlanta were virtually the same size in population. There wasn’t a large difference in size.”

When Hartsfield-Jackson opened, it changed the entire state, Cagle said. When former governor Zell Miller invested in the Savannah port in the 1990s, Cagle said, it became another “economic engine.”

“It is now the fasting growing port in the nation,” he said. “It does over $60 billion in revenue annually. And it impacts every single community in our state.”

Business and economic development officials here have said the deepening of the port, which was the subject of controversy after the Obama administration did not include funding for it in the federal budget this year, would help the Dalton area. Several Democrats in Congress opposed the deepening because they said it would hurt the coastal environment. That left the onus on state officials to fund the project despite a tight budget, Cagle said.

“We do think the federal government will (help fund it) eventually,” he said. “There’s a lot of gamesmanship, probably, going on. ... I am convinced that the port has such a huge impact on our economy. Not just for Georgia, but the nation.”

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