The biggest issues facing Georgians are related to a lack of infrastructure, a lack of skilled workers and a perpetual cycle of poverty, according to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor in 2018.
Cagle spoke to the Gainesville Kiwanis Club Tuesday afternoon at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.
"We've been blessed to be the No. 1 state to do business in each of the last four years, and we want to keep greater economic prosperity moving forward," said Cagle.
To do that, Cagle said, a 10-year plan must be implemented to guide the state's infrastructure needs.
"Georgia is expected to grow by 4.5 million people in the next 15 years. What is that growth, and what do we want it to look like?" said Cagle, who was first elected to office as a state senator in 1994.
"We want to build a work force that is second to none, and allow industries to grow and prosper."
Improved infrastructure would help businesses continue to grow statewide, but those businesses need qualified employees just as much as they need roads and bridges, said Cagle.
"Our infrastructure's built for about half the size we are today. We've got to be willing to go over, under or around whatever's required, and (have) a 10-year, strategic plan to really build the infrastructure of tomorrow."
Build that, Cagle said, and businesses can thrive — provided their are skilled applicants waiting to apply.
The Lt. Governor told the audience in attendance that there are 150,000 jobs available in the state, and 75-percent of them require a two-year degree or certified training program.
"The No. 1 thing that we need to continue to be focused on is our (Lanier) College and Career Academy that we opened here in Hall County. Not every kid needs to go off and get a four-year degree. Many of them need to come out of high school with an industry-certified certificate," said Cagle.
"We certainly need more welders. We need more industrial mechanics."
If public schools can offer that sort of vocational training, Cagle said it would pull many residents above the poverty line who might have otherwise been below it.
Cagle said the average high school graduate with no extra training earns $16,000 per year on average. If that same graduate has certified training, their earning jumps to $32,000 per year on average.
Cagle was first elected to the Lt. Governor post in 2006.
(The full interview with Cagle is posted at the top of this article.)