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Countdown to Savannah: A Labor Day Look at Savannah's Economy

Kathy Wood (kaydee)

In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.

With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.

A Diverse Economy

Savannah’s not just a tourist destination—it’s a dynamic three-county metropolitan area where 320,000 people live, work and go to school. In honor of Labor Day (9/2/07), I thought we’d take a look at Savannah’s diverse economy and some of its major employers.

Savannah has a very strong business and employment base including manufacturing, distribution, tourism, military, healthcare, port operations, and retail. The unemployment rate in Savannah as of July 2007 was 4.3%-- one of the lowest in Georgia and 10% below the national average. (update: 4/4/08 unemployment rate is 4.4) The median household income is $46,240. The Savannah metropolitan area’s short and long-term growth prospects are considered among the best in the nation.

Manufacturing

Two hundred and seventy manufacturing companies employ more than 14,500 people. The largest and most prominent manufacturing employers include International Paper, Georgia Pacific and Weyerhauser, three giants of the pulp and paper industry; Gulfstream Aerospace, the areas largest employer with more than 5,000 employees and the producer of world-class business aircraft; Savannah Foods & Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Sugar Company; Lummus Corporation, which makes cotton-ginning equipment; Palmer Johnson, a builder of luxury yachts; LOreal USA, which makes cosmetics; and J.C. Bamford Excavators, which produces heavy-construction equipment.

Tourism

Of course, tourism in Savannah is big business. Tourism exploded in the 1990’s after the book and the movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Over 6 million people visited Savannah in 2005, spending almost $1.5 billion and supporting more than 20,000 jobs. Although the majority (77%) are leisure travelers, a growing number of people are coming to Savannah for meetings and conferences.

Port of Savannah

The port of Savannah is also a major economic force, shipping to more than 150 countries and providing 7,000 jobs. The Savannah port handled 2.1 million cargo containers in 2006 and is now the second-busiest port on the Eastern seaboard.

Military

Savannah is also a major military center, home to Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart military bases. Together these two bases employ more than 27,500 (military personnel and civilians) and generate spending of almost $1 billion.

Cost of Living

Savannah enjoys a very moderate cost-of-living, with a cost-of-living index of 89.22. (The national average is 100.) This compares very favorably with other southeastern cities and tourist destinations: Charlotte (103), Jacksonville (107), Charleston (113) and Atlanta (116). The average home price in Savannah is $185,389.

I think General Oglethorpe would be proud of what the settlement he founded in 1733 has become!

Learn more about Savannah's economy:

Savannah Chamber of Commerce – Economic Development

Savannah Economic Development Authority

Savannah Economic Forecast (2008)

Resources

All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)

Woods Family Grand Tour of Europe: List of articles and photo albums by Kathy Wood


Kathy is a former Human Resources executive who now works as a consultant and part-time college professor. She and Charley also lead The Luberon Experience (www.luberonexperience.com), a week-long, small-group trip based in Provence.

© Kathy Wood, 2007


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