Lt Governor Casey Cagle departs Big Canoe from the Play Field. PHOTO BY WAYNE TIDWELL
Lieutenant Governor Cagle says we must prepare for a fast-growing Georgia
Georgia is going to gain 4 1/2 million new residents in less than 15 years, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told the Nov. 3 Squires & Stags breakfast crowd at the Big Canoe Clubhouse.
“That’s the size of South Carolina coming on top of Georgia,” he said. “For me now, it’s about shaping and planning for the growth we are going to experience. We are certainly going to need to be focused on the infrastructure that we need to sustain that type of growth.”
Cagle, who served under Governors Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal and is the leading candidate in the race for the governor’s office in next year’s election, served during the economic downturn when the state had to cut $3 billion out of state spending.
“That allowed us to go through the adversity but to focus on what we wanted the future of our state to look like,” Cagle said. “We did some strategic things to diversify our portfolio. One of those was cutting taxes on manufacturing in particular. Today we have 35 percent more manufacturing in the state as a result of that public policy.”
He also cited the successful incentives for the film industry in Georgia that he said resulted in a $9 billion enterprise today.
Cagle said that two things were learned from the I-85 bridge collapse this past summer.
“First and foremost was that our infrastructure was basically built for about half the size of the population as it is today, Cagle said. “The second thing we witnessed, which I actually appreciate even more, is that when you incentivize the private sector, and government gets out of the way to allow them to do what they do best, you can build a bridge back in 45 days.”
He said those learning experiences have allowed the state to focus on a 10-year strategic transportation plan that ranks and prioritizes every road and bridge in the state.
“I am going to be a governor that is going to be committed to building out that infrastructure,” Cagle said.
He also said that there had to be focus on broadband concerns and plans are underway to incentivize the private sector to build out the broadband that is so desperately needed. He pointed out that rural healthcare is in crisis and that six hospitals have closed and many more are on the verge of closing.
“We’ve got to really focus on not just trying to get Obamacare repealed or replaced,” Cagle said. “I have grown a little weary in putting my faith and trust in Washington DC but I do think that what we can do is to create through waivers a healthcare delivery system that really does allow individuals to purchase the insurance that they need at a price which they can afford.”
Cagle cited the educational system in the state as perhaps not geared to the industries that Georgia attracts and the need for an educated workforce.
“We have roughly about 100,000 job openings in Georgia and of those job openings, 25 percent need a four-year degree. Seventy-five percent need either an industry certification or a two-year degree from our technical colleges.”
He said that Atlanta is in the hunt for the Amazon search for an eastern headquarters that he called “the largest economic development deal in the history of America,” that will bring 50,000 jobs.
“The issue is building a workforce that is second to none,” Cagle said. “I don’t think that we can have a one-size-fits-all educational system that says that every kid should go off and get a four-year degree. That is not what industry needs.”
He touted the state’s College and Career Academy Network as a platform for delivering a first class workforce.
“When we allow education to be aligned with industry needs and we create the pipeline that is necessary for industries to grow and be prosperous, we are doing something special for that individual because there will be no road (to success) that is closed.”
Twenty-five percent of Georgia students live in poverty, according to Cagle with 40 counties that have 40 percent poverty rates.
“The way you solve that is creating an educational system that really is aligned to give them that alternative to lift them out of the set of circumstances that they are in,” Cagle said.
Cagle said he understands from a personal standpoint the issue of poverty, as he grew up poor in a one-parent environment in a singlewide trailer.
Cagle said he was running for governor to give back.
“I am not running against any person for governor,” Cagle said. “I am not running for a job. I am not running for a title, because I don’t need one. I am running because I want to make a difference. I want to be that person that’s fighting to give every Georgian the same opportunity to taste the American dream.”
In the Q&A session, Cagle said he was not in favor of bringing casino gambling to Georgia.
“The casinos have a ton of money,” Cagle said. “They are all about getting the big acts. So, the Fox Theatre and all the other venues that exist in downtown Atlanta are very, very concerned that it would disrupt the current business model that is in place. That is something we need to think about.”
Cagle said he will support economic development in Georgia and that Georgia has a lot to offer new businesses. He said economic development is a three legged stool: commitment to existing industries, recruiting new industry and making sure that we are growing new technology and said he created the $100 million “Invest Georgia” designed to create more venture capital. He said he would view development in terms of the return on investment.
“I want Georgia to be the “Silicon Valley of the South,” said.
On the question of transportation, Cagle said MARTA needs a rebranding and that Georgia needs rail transportation. He cited the Mercedes Benz and State Farm headquarters move to Atlanta as companies that “had to be on rail” and that Amazon would have to be on rail. He also noted that millennials are “perfectly fine not owning a car” and are users of rail transportation and services such as Uber. He said he would call for a strategic analysis of exactly where rails need to be and bring all of the transportation agencies and communities together to build consensus.
Cagle said the state has invested a quarter of a billion dollars in the port in Savannah, which has a $60 billion economic impact on Georgia. From that port by truck businesses can penetrate 80 percent of the market share in less than two days travel time. He said inland ports being developed would provide staging for goods coming in as well as goods being shipped to other parts of the world. He said that would benefit agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry.
Cagle said he was committed to 500 thousand jobs in his first four years as governor and a $100 million tax cut that benefits all Georgians.