The latest U.S. Department of Commerce Gross Domestic Product Report shows Floyd County had a 2% growth rate in 2019 from the previous year.

The report, drawn up by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is an improvement over the previous three years when the growth rate was less than 1.5% annually. The 2018 report showed 0.2% growth from 2017 to 2018.

Gross Domestic Product is defined as the final value of the goods and services produced within a specific jurisdiction during a specific period of time. GDP growth rate is an important barometer of the overall economic health of a community.

The data represents contributions from across a spectrum of 34 industries, from manufacturing and retail trade to health and social assistance.

The BEA’s county-by-county analysis, now published every four years, is expected to become an annual report. Each December it will be released to better show the distribution of economic activity across the nation.

The report shows that production in Rome and Floyd County for 2019 was at $3.96 billion, which ranked 24th among Georgia’s 159 counties. Fulton County was No. 1 in the state with $159.93 billion, while Glascock County was last with goods and services totaling $34.39 million.

GDP in Floyd County has been making a comeback over the last three years. In 2016, Floyd County producers and retailers reported a GDP of $3.971 billion. It took a tumble to $3.880 billion in 2017 before rebounding to $3.881 billion in 2018 and to $3.960 billion in 2019.

Missy Kendrick, president of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, said the increase did not really surprise her.

“We’ve seen expansions ... We’ve had a lot of growth with existing industries,” Kendrick said.

Several nearby counties did report a decline in output in 2019. Cherokee County, Alabama, dropped 0.7% to $531.16 million in 2019. Bartow County was down 0.8% to $4.40 billion and Whitfield County was down 1% to $5.21 billion.

Gordon County registered modest growth of 1.8% to $2.14 billion, Polk County was up 1.7% to $1.17 billion, Chattooga was up 1.3% to $598.37 million and Walker County was up 0.9% to $1.39 billion.

Retired Georgia Highlands College economics professor Bruce Jones has indicated that, historically, nearly 70% of GDP is based on personal spending.

Data from Floyd County Finance Director Susie Gass shows that sales tax collections across the county were up 8.9% from 2018 to 2019, a positive indicator of consumer confidence in the local economy.

Last year was a significant one for industrial expansions in Rome and Floyd County, though the fruits of several projects won’t show up until the 2020 GDP report comes out a year from now.

International Paper started on a $150 million investment to enhance its technology in order to meet growing demands. The mill makes linerboard for shipping boxes, a need that continues to grow with the online shopping economy.

In October of 2019, Ball Packaging revealed plans for a major expansion of its Floyd County operations. The company has invested close $240 million in a free-standing 250,000-square-foot addition and equipment on a 25-acre tract just north of West Hermitage Road.

Ball has committed to adding a minimum of 145 full-time jobs over five years associated with the project.

The new plant will make aluminum cups designed to serve the demand for innovative, sustainable beverage packaging in the U.S. market, said John A. Hayes, chairman, president and CEO of Ball.

The Kerry Group completed its acquisition of Southeastern Mills, now Summit Hill Foods’ coatings and seasonings division, on Douglas Street and earlier this year announced plans for a major expansion of that operation.

Heritage Sleep Concepts acquired the long abandoned Capitoline Products building adjacent to Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in the spring of 2019 for $2,425,000.

Frankie Beck, COO for Heritage, said the five-generation family business serves retail outlets in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas and the panhandle of Florida,

Beck said the company had experienced significantly more growth that it had anticipated.

In October of 2019, Southeastern Mills/Summit Foods officials cut the ribbon to open their new Center for Superior Logistics in the Floyd County Industrial Park.

Vice President for Supply Chain Fran Smith said the new warehouse and distribution facility encompasses 140,000 square feet under one roof. It includes 20,000 square feet of refrigerated storage, which he termed “rare and expensive in our industry.”

In December of 2019, Marglen Industries revealed plans to add two new lines to its recycling operations — expanding its existing facilities by 20,000 square feet — and will extrude materials for new textile fibers and plastic beverage or food containers.

The Marglen project represents a $17 million investment that will add approximately 20 jobs by the time construction is completed.

While there was growth in 2019, the community did slip a notch in the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s books. The agency dropped the county from Tier Three to Tier Two status, a signal that more incentives may be needed to promote future industrial growth.

Tier Three communities are able to offer a $1,250 tax credit per net new job. The Tier Two communities can pay up to $2,500 per job.

Local economic development officials said they are anticipating a formal announcement of another significant expansion of an existing industry in Rome as early as next week.

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