How Georgia Is Paving the Path for the Food Industry

If you’re running a food company, you know there are a number of factors that must come together to make a location desirable for your business. From natural resources, favorable climate, and a business-friendly regulatory environment, success in the food industry is dependent on many variables. So where should a food company put down roots?

The state of Georgia is a popular location for food production and processing. From food giants like Coca-Cola to smaller companies like Verdant Kitchen with a niche focus on local produce, the food industry has thrived in Georgia due to the support and resources offered by the state.

These eight unique reasons show how the state of Georgia is supporting its food industry.

 

Resources

Because agribusiness is the state’s top industry, Georgia provides a wealth of resources for food companies related to agricultural commodities and processing capability. The Georgia Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, a division within the state’s Department of Economic Development, serves as a key conduit to connect food companies with a myriad of resources. The Center provides expertise and connections to help food companies grow and compete globally by connecting clients directly to key resources, emerging technologies, and university research.

 

Relationships

Georgia’s food industry partners work together to support innovative products and solutions with contributions from the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and over 40 food industry associations and trade organizations located in the state. These relationships help the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness aid the food industry in reaching goals, growing their businesses and improving production processes. For example, processing companies in Georgia benefit from the state’s widely recognized Quick Start program, which provides free job-specific training to employees at new and expanding companies. All these programs and partnerships serve as key relationships between food industry companies and the state’s resources that support agribusiness.

 

Research

Research is a driving force behind the sustainability of the food industry, which is supported by a number of different entities to increase efficiency, generate innovation, and maximize costs in every aspect of food processing.

  • Georgia Tech Agricultural Technology Research Program: Georgia Tech’s ATRP combines engineering and food cultivation to conduct groundbreaking research in the areas of food safety, processing efficiency, environmental responsibility and product distribution.
  • The University of Georgia: UGA’s FoodPIC program works directly with food companies to launch new products. The university also has a branch of food science education dedicated to researching product innovation, policy issues, safety, and product development. In addition, UGA is home to the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, which provides feasibility and marketing services, agricultural and demographic data for private and public decision makers, and analysis related to policy issues in Georgia agriculture.
  • United States Department of Agriculture: USDA sponsors a variety of programs intended to further food science research within the university system, contributing to efforts that maintain food safety, crop quality, environmental sustainability, and protection from infectious diseases and foodborne pathogens.

 

Workforce

One of the most important factors for success for a food company is access to a wealth of talent when hiring new employees. With more than 50,000 farms and 652 food processing companies, the food industry is Georgia’s leading employment sector, making it the fifth-largest food processing state in terms of workforce according to the Georgia Power Company. While processing giants like Tyson Foods, Inc., Chicken of the Sea, and King’s Hawaiian account for thousands of workers throughout the state, the majority of Georgia’s food processing companies employ fewer than a hundred workers, making it a welcoming environment for companies of any size.

 

Growth

The agriculture industry is currently Georgia’s leading industry sector and is projected to sustain its growth through 2020. The state’s food processing industry outpaces the state’s overall employment growth and U.S. food processing industry entirely, and accounts for 3 percent of the annual growth of Georgia’s GDP. As many entrepreneurs learn the hard way, it’s much easier to sustain business success when the industry around it is already experiencing growth. A healthy infrastructure with a strong business outlook is a key factor for companies looking to grow and expand.

 

Accessibility

With Atlanta at the helm of the state’s distribution and transportation networks, Georgia is considered the second best state in the U.S. for infrastructure and global access according to the Georgia Power Community and Economic Development Report of 2014. Two major ports, Savannah and Brunswick, enable the state’s manufacturers and processors to export $3 billion in food and beverage products annually. The state is a two-day truck drive from 80 percent of the country’s major GDP markets. The USDA estimates transportation costs can total up to 4 percent of food processing expenses. Close proximity to the country’s busiest ports can reduce fees and maximize efficiency for food businesses looking to export products.

 

Inclusivity

Georgia is recognized nationally as the top state to operate a company for its favorable business climate. From a napkin sketch idea to partnering with a large grocery retailer, Georgia supports its food industry by providing information and resources each step of the way. No matter where in the process you enter, the state of Georgia will support you throughout your journey.

 

Future

Each of these components lends itself to a bright future for food processing in Georgia. The state’s universities are focused on reducing costs through developing more efficient processes, like precision irrigation systems for water conservation, creating innovative ways to reduce waste from poultry and other meats, and developing customization tools for food processing to better track consumer trends.

Georgia’s favorable weather climate and industry growth make it the perfect place to diversify vegetable production as specialty crops continue to gain popularity. The industry is projected to break into new markets including improved food processing technology and agritourism, a practice that involves younger generations exploring the agricultural history of their families. As the agribusiness industry continues to expand and evolve, it promises a successful future for food startups.

 

Conclusion

The state of Georgia has a wealth of resources and access for anyone looking to launch a food company. With the help of its numerous programs, resources and supportive partners, Georgia has built a successful environment where any food company can thrive.

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