Encompassing approximately 3,500 square miles, the Georgia Mountains Region is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The region is bordered by North Carolina to the north and South Carolina to the east, while other Georgia counties border the region to the south and west. At an estimated total population of 719,021, the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission serves the following 12 counties: Banks, Dawson, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White and 37 municipalities within these counties.
The Georgia Mountains region boasts blue mountains, sparkling rivers, thundering waterfalls, lush green forests, family adventure, and natural enchantment. This region is no longer solely reliant on manufacturing and agriculture, instead, health care, tourism, distribution, retail, and a variety of industrial and high-tech companies comprise the regional economy. Problems surrounding future economic and community development for the region include, but are not limited to, shortages of skilled labor, out-migration of young adults, and lack of quality neighborhood housing for new executives and business employees.
The entire region has a substantial manufacturing base and a strong desire to maintain and expand manufacturing jobs. Most local manufacturing firms have marginal ties with other firms in the region and companies have located and expanded here due to quality labor force, low cost of doing business, historic location of companies in the area, and quality of the transportation system.
The core transportation network throughout the region, including Georgia 400, Interstates 85, 985, and US Highway 441 transportation corridors, strategically locate and align the region for expanded business and industry in both domestic and international markets. The region is also part of a large automotive “cluster”. The Interstate 85 corridor traversing the region serves as an important economic tool linking Mercedes in Alabama, Kia in West Point, and BMW in Spartanburg. As a result of this core network, many automotive manufacturers and suppliers are located in the region. Distribution and logistics are industry sectors that continue to grow within the Georgia Mountains Region.
The region’s infrastructure is continuing to provide top quality support to the economic clusters. Important components of the public infrastructure system to support all segments of the region’s economy include, but are not limited to: skilled labor force, strong workforce development facilities, advanced technological resources, and adequate physical infrastructure that includes a reliable water supply, reliable wastewater treatment capabilities, transportation, and a communications infrastructure system capable of handling the needs of today’s firms.
The impact of tourism and tourism-related industries has a significant impact on the economy of the Georgia Mountains Region. As a primary gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the region annually hosts over seven million visitors to the many mountains, lakes, rivers, museums, and downtowns that make the region unique from the rest of the state. Agri-tourism is especially popular in the Georgia Mountains Region. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the rapidly emerging wine-growing industry. The topography, elevation, and suitable soils make the Georgia Mountains Region an ideal place for growing winegrapes. The red clay soil in the region is similar to the “terra rossa,” soil of Italy’s wine country. Over 30 wineries and vineyards are located in the Georgia Mountains Region.