Manufacturing shows signs of expansion in Georgia

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, 11.55 percent of Georgia's economic output came from the manufacturing industry in 2014, which employed 8.75 percent of the state's population, totaling around 366,000 employees. If those numbers weren't impressive enough, the average annual compensation for manufacturing employees in 2013 was $65,817, and the total value of output from the state's manufacturing industry was $52.49 billion. 

After looking at these numbers, its pretty safe to say that the manufacturing industry in Georgia is in a good state but can still grow. Local politicians have taken note. 

Investing in the future of manufacturing
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently visited Georgia Southern University to sign state law HB 76. The law is expected to be an important part of the 2016 Fiscal Year Budget given that it includes $33.6 million in funding for a new multidisciplinary classroom building for the campus, according to the school's website. But, perhaps more importantly, it also approves funding for $1 million expected to go towards an operating budget to help foster a top-tier manufacturing engineering program. 

"We call on higher education, both in our college and university system and in our technical college system, to help us prepare the workforce of today and certainly the workforce of tomorrow," said Deal. "For those institutions of higher learning, we continue to provide financial support."

By signing this legislation, Governor Deal stands firmly behind the concept that manufacturing is an important part of Georgia's economy and should be moving forward. The $1 million will go toward improving the advanced manufacturing degree program and hiring world-class faculty to teach the program's students, who will hopefully go on to further grow Georgia's manufacturing industry.

"In Georgia, manufacturing jobs account for about 350,000 Georgians," Deal said. "And with the establishment of this program at Georgia Southern, I am told it will be the only program in the Southeast that is dedicated to that manufacturing degree arena and I think it is certainly a welcome one."

Expansion within the state
While the state government puts its stamp of approval on the future of Georgia's manufacturing industry, current stakeholders are investing in the present, as well. Voigt Manufacturing in Moultrie, Georgia, is looking to expand its operations, according to the Moultrie Observer.

The southern Georgia manufacturer has been doing so well that it has customers stretching from Alabama, to northern Florida and all the way to parts of South Carolina. As a result of its success and a recent busy period, Voigt has hired more employees in anticipation of an increase in business to prepare for cotton and peanut operations that will need their services. 

On top of adding new employees, the manufacturer invested $1.3 million in buying a 42,000-square-foot building located off Highway 133, which can be found next to the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition's field area, and bought also new equipment. The new equipment includes a plasma burn table, which Kenny Voigt, who runs the company with his brother Britt Voigt, told the Observer makes cutting steel into the right shape easier; which is good because a lot of the daily tasks of Voigt Manufacturing's employees includes cutting, shaping, welding and polishing pieces of metal. 

Over the past 10 years of operations, Voigt manufacturing has worked in various sections of agricultural manufacturing - such as the construction of cotton gins, dust collectors, elevators and refurbishing parts. 

"It's been growing tremendously the last four or five years," Kenny Voigt said regarding his business, which has already outgrown one location, to the Observer. "If we keep growing like we have we'll double [employees] in five years. We hope to grow to 75 or 80."

Right now, Voigt Manufacturing is looking to invest another $20,000 into a new press and hire another 10 employees, preferably, welders and fabricators in this stage, raising their staff to a total of more than 30. 

Not only is Voigt moving to a larger building, but its new facilities come with six loading docks, five more than the old location. This will allow them to benefit from more convenient means to both  load finished equipment onto trucks to be delivered to clients and unload what can be as much as 45,000 pounds of steel per week. There is also now room for cranes, which Kenny Voigt tells the Observer can be used for a variety or necessary tasks, such as setting modular homes, placing cooling and heating systems on roofs and replacing equipment in otherwise hard-to-reach places, such as 300-foot-tall cell towers. 

Providing even more promising signs into the future, Voigt Manufacturing has qualified for more than $90,000 in tax credits for manufacturing machinery sales tax exemptions, according to Darrel Moore, development authority president. Voigt has also qualified for up to $4,000 in state tax credits per new employee for five years, which would end up being $20,000 each.