Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, on top priorities for the state and region:
Continuing the economic expansion in Atlanta and across the entire state. Maintaining Georgia as a hotspot for innovation and a business-friendly environment that encourages investment and job creation.
Second, we must continue to focus on talent and workforce development to ensure the state and region have the labor supply and skills to meet the needs of the expanding economy we are witnessing.
Third, investing in infrastructure expansion to support broader economic growth will be imperative in 2024. This includes areas such as digital infrastructure. Additionally, I’m excited to see further development in the electric vehicle ecosystem across the state and region.
Katie Kirkpatrick, the president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said these are top storylines her organization expects to follow in 2024:
A renewed focus on community, particularly with downtown Atlanta on a new growth trajectory. Atlanta Ventures’ new investment in south downtown is already sparking new excitement, and we are optimistic about the possibilities as we begin to reimagine the entire downtown Atlanta experience.
Metro Atlanta growing into our new role as a major center of gravity for soccer in the United States. The march toward the FIFA World Cup 2026 includes milestones like locating the U.S. Soccer headquarters and training facility and hosting the opening match for Copa America 2024, and our region’s reputation as a soccer hub is gaining momentum.
Conversations about how to continue to strengthen our talent pipelines. Talent is a challenge across the country, but metro Atlanta has been working on solutions. We have plans for new approaches to recruitment and retention that will come online in 2024; we are studying the data to better understand talent supply and career demand matchups; and we are strengthening a few key talent pipelines. There is more to come in 2024 as these approaches become more sophisticated, and as our region’s population continues to grow.
Continued thoughtful discussion around tax incentives in the state of Georgia. While we welcome a regular review of incentives to ensure they generate the appropriate ROI (return on investment), the business community also prioritizes a consistent, predictable, and stable tax environment.
Continued economic growth and new economic development projects across industries. We expect growth and momentum to continue, particularly in the cleantech and fintech sectors.
Finally, we continue to see positive economic indicators for the future. We avoided the recession that many people predicted for 2023, and the Georgia economy continues to be strong in its recovery from the COVID recession. Even if the U.S. does experience an economic downturn in 2024, Georgia is well-positioned to weather it quickly and continue our growth.
Egbert Perry, chairman of The Integral Group development firm, said there are many economic and policy factors he’ll be paying attention to in 2024:
For many Americans, homeownership — a crucial component of accumulating household wealth — remains unattainable in the current reality. Furthermore, a significant portion of moderate- and low-income families are paying rent with more than half of their monthly income.
As a developer actively involved in projects in several markets, we are witnessing a change locally where the problem of affordable housing is becoming more pressing and top-of-mind. Local political agendas are being shaped by these concerns, which are becoming vitally important to county administrators, city councils, and mayors. Local governments have typically been reluctant to take on these policy responsibilities, preferring to defer to state and federal policies and initiatives. However, local leaders are increasingly being driven to create, adopt, and execute their own policy solutions in response to the urgent need to improve housing affordability.
Nevertheless, I believe we may see the Biden Administration take substantial steps in the housing sector. I think we may see the Administration act by tapping into unobligated funds from legislative measures like the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act. I believe we may see, augmented by a significant private sector investment, a strategic reallocation of significant resources. This could trigger a major surge in new home construction, potentially mitigating the housing affordability crisis and opening pathways to homeownership for numerous first-time buyers. The move would not only address the immediate affordability issues but also lay the groundwork for a redefined housing landscape in the nation, ensuring that the American Dream is attainable for a broader segment of the population, thereby fostering economic prosperity and advancing social equity.
Tiffany Bussey, the founding director of the Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, said there are several things she’ll be watching in 2024 that could impact small businesses:
Access to Capital: We should see a potential growth in alternative financing options and community-driven investment initiatives.
Digital Transformation: Continued increased reliance on digital tools and e-commerce, creating opportunities for businesses with strong online presences with a focus on digital literacy and technology adoption for sustained competitiveness.
Policy Advocacy: Continued attack on efforts to address systemic barriers through policy changes at local, state, and national levels. At the same time, we must increase the call for advocacy for fair and inclusive procurement practices.
Technology Adoption: Increased integration of emerging technologies, such as AI and automation, to enhance efficiency with an emphasis on tech education and training for small businesses.
Networking and Collaboration: Increased interest in strengthening networks and collaboration within the Black business community with increased support for mentorship programs and partnerships.
Supply Chain Resilience: Growing interest in strategies to address vulnerabilities in supply chains, with a focus on local and diverse suppliers. This is indicative of the lasting effects of COVID-19 and the vulnerability of the global uncertainties caused by factors such as the ongoing war in (Ukraine) and the (Israel-Hamas War), blockage of major shipping canal passages diverting cargo ships, resulting in massive increase in shipping time and increase in gas prices.
Ken Taunton, the founder and CEO of The Royster Group, an Atlanta-based professional recruiting firm, said this is what he’s paying attention to in the new year:
In 2024, Metro Atlanta could face a shortage or gap of skilled professionals in the digital and technology sectors. The region is expected to maintain a low unemployment rate, leading to fierce competition among corporations and emerging businesses for the same talent pool. To address this challenge, it will be crucial to implement workforce development initiatives that offer training and education in high-demand skills.
As technology and artificial intelligence continue to advance, there will likely be a greater emphasis on recruiting individuals with expertise in technology and automation. This may result in prioritizing candidates with solid digital skills over those without. Therefore, it becomes imperative to establish a well-coordinated effort to align training and educational programs with the evolving demands of the job market.