Athens-Clarke County is the best-positioned community in the U.S. to attract investment and economic growth. That’s according to a Pittsburgh consulting group. The University of Georgia’s home county benefits greatly from its educational institutes.
Fourth Economy Consulting considers a community’s levels of investment, talent and diversity to compile the ranking.
The consultants cited UGA and the Medical College of Georgia’s new Athens campus for attracting people to the area, and driving biomedical innovation.
They also said the county’s diversified economy includes not only higher education but also healthcare and the arts.
Athens Mayor Nancy Denson says the ranking is a first.
“We have never gotten recognition for being a business-friendly or an industry-friendly community. And I think we are – I think we are very much pro-industry, pro-business, pro-jobs and it’s wonderful to be recognized for it now,” she said in an interview.
At 7 percent, the unemployment rate in Athens-Clarke County is the lowest among Georgia’s major cities.
Backhoe manufacturer Caterpillar recently said it will build a $200 million plant in the Athens area that will employ 1,400 people.
Stephen McKnight of Fourth Economy Consulting says the concentration of higher education entities likely influenced Caterpillar executives.
“You can begin to draw conclusions that there probably were some considerations given to the knowledge base, the innovation ecosystem that exists there in Athens and that’s an important thing to keep in mind,” he said.
He said that's because Caterpillar is a modern manufacturer that sees itself as a purveyor of technology.
The counties making the list range in size from 100,000 to 150,000 residents.