LISTEN: Gov. Brian Kemp took to the stage of the Georgia Logistics Summit to stress the need for more housing, as major economic development projects promise thousands of new jobs. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at the Georgia Logistics Summit at the Savannah Convention Center on March 8, 2023.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at the Georgia Logistics Summit at the Savannah Convention Center on March 8, 2023.

Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News

Business leaders from across Georgia met Wednesday in Savannah for the annual Georgia Logistics Summit, where Gov. Brian Kemp called for more housing to accommodate the influx of workers filling jobs at new manufacturing and warehouse facilities.

“[The people] that are working at our ports and in our factories should be able to live in our communities as well,” Kemp told a sold-out crowd at the Savannah Convention Center.

The greater Savannah area is projected to see explosive growth in the near future, as the largest economic development project in Georgia history — the Hyundai electric vehicle plant in Bryan County — is slated to become fully operational in 2025, and as the already-bustling Port of Savannah undergoes expansion.

By 2045, the population of a four-county region in and around Savannah — comprised of Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Bulloch counties — is projected to grow by 34%, according to a study by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Georgia Southern University economics professor Michael Toma also spoke at the event, and called the Savannah area “the hottest market in the logistics industry right now.”

Kemp noted that the majority of economic investment he's seen since taking office has been outside metro Atlanta. To that end, his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year calls for a $35.7 million Rural Workforce Housing Fund to help local governments boost their housing stock.

“[It's] something that we're working with local governments and policymakers and a lot of other people, to make sure that we do that in the right way, so we maintain our quality of life, but also continue to have a better quality of life for those working Georgians that are literally helping make and develop the products that you all are shipping around the world,” Kemp said.

Toma said it is “eminently possible” that the Port of Savannah will overtake the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the No. 1 container port in the U.S., owing in part to the region's relatively large amount of undeveloped land.

“There's nothing but trees all the way from Macon to Savannah,” Toma said. “Well, guess what's going to happen to those trees? We have space to develop real estate to support the growing logistics industry here in our metro area and in southeastern Georgia.”

Toma said that a recession is all but certain for later this year, calling it “probably the most predicted recession in the history of recessions in this country. I mean, it's going to happen. It's a question of when it happens.”

However, he also called it “highly likely” that even if the U.S. goes into a recession, Georgia would not, thanks to “absolutely stunning growth” in the state's logistics industry.