Local News

April 29, 2014

Deal touts economic growth, falling unemployment

Gov. Nathan Deal brought good news to Chatsworth on Tuesday, from falling unemployment in the state to increased state funding for K-12 education. But one piece of news held special significance to his audience. Deal announced that the state budget he signed Monday included funding for a long-awaited barn for North Murray High School.

Deal spoke at the annual meeting of the Chatsworth-Eton-Murray County Chamber of Commerce.

“This budget does include money for the Murray County barn,” he said.

The high school opened four years ago, but officials have been waiting for state funding to open the barn.

Principal Maria Bradley said the building is currently just a “shell” and the new state funding will allow the school to put in interior walls, light fixtures, wiring for electricity and other work to finish the interior.

“We are really excited,” she said. “This will benefit our school for years to come, and it will also serve as a multipurpose facility that will benefit the entire community.”

State Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said the budget contains about $250,000 for the barn.

“Both of the high schools, Murray and North Murray, have very active and very successful agricultural programs” Dickson said. “When you go to state competitions and national competitions and see people from Murray County there competing and winning, that means something.”

School officials have already begun filling out the paperwork to get the funding released to them so they can start construction.

Deal noted that the fiscal year 2015 budget increased spending on K-12 education by more than $500 million to some $11 billion.

Deal noted that unemployment in the state fell to 7 percent in March from more than 10 percent when he took office.

“Those of you who know me know that I don’t often quote CNBC, but they named us No. 1 for workforce,” Deal said. “We are proud of that. But we know you have to maintain that workforce. You can’t take it for granted.”

Deal spoke of several steps he and the Legislature have taken to make sure that Georgians continue to acquire and maintain the skills desired by employers.

For instance, he announced he had just signed into law a bill that will create the Zell Miller Grant, which will cover full tuition for students in the state’s technical colleges who are eligible for the Hope Grant and who maintain a grade point average of at least 3.5.

He also noted that the 2015 budget includes funds to expand the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, which funds those in the technical college system who are acquiring skills in particular demand by industry. Those studying early childhood care and education, commercial truck driving and practical nursing were previously eligible for the grant. Now, those studying welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology are also eligible.

“Government cannot create jobs. But it can put into place the right policies that will allow private business to create jobs,” Deal said.

He said he believes that the state is rebounding from the recession and slow growth of the last few years and noted that during the last three-and-a half years the state has landed a number of new businesses that promise to create plenty of new jobs, from equipment-maker Caterpillar to Baxter International, a health care company.

He said he is particularly heartened that the floorcovering industry is showing such strength.

“Just over the last eight months, the former carpet industry, now the flooring industry, has announced a number of projects that promise to create 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs. Most of those will be created here in northwest Georgia,” he said. “That’s very good news.”

Engineered Floors, Shaw Industries and Mohawk Industries have announced or begun investments in northwest Georgia totaling more than $600 million in the last year.

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