While Hall County’s economy had a tumultuous start in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the region is starting to show economic recovery leading into 2021.
Hall County’s unemployment rate peaked at 10.7 percent in April 2020, but the preliminary unemployment rate for November 2020 was 3.5 percent according to the Georgia Department of Labor. That is 1.3 percent higher than the 2.2 percent unemployment rate for the county from November 2019.
Tim Evans, Vice President of Economic Development with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said even with its ups-and-downs, 2020 has been a big year for the county.
“2020 has been still a very active, busy year in terms of expansion plans for both healthcare expansions and business expansions, so we know that that will show up in 2021 and even 2022 in construction activity,” Evans said.
Evans said the construction of projects like Kubota’s new facility on GA 365 and the new Agile Cold Storage on Athens Highway have brought and will continue to bring jobs to Hall County.
Some businesses have struggled, while others in the region have thrived during the pandemic, which makes it hard to say whether this year has been good or bad, according to Evans.
Even with this uncertainty, Evans said there are a number of businesses that have adapted to the pandemic and are hiring in the Hall County area right now.
“There’s a lot of hiring going on right now … we’ve got over 60 companies that are advertising job openings on our website. We are planning [our] next job fair, right now scheduled for March 31,” Evans said.
When it comes to developing the workforce for placement in these local jobs, nearby Lanier Technical College had a strong end of the year, according to Ray Perren, president of the college.
“We were able to complete fall semester successfully, we’re still graduating students, and as of last September we still are maintaining a 100 percent graduate placement rate, so we’re very excited about that,” Perren said.
Perren said Lanier Technical College also experienced about a 9.3 percent increase in enrollment during the fall semester.
Moving forward, Perren said the Technical College System of Georgia is working to establish a new online initiative called eCampus. The program, which will launch in summer 2021, will allow students to take technical college courses in an online format, regardless of where they live.
On the topic of 2021, Evans said he is optimistic it will be an economically strong year.
“A lot of our local economy is based on local fundamentals, and the fundamentals are really strong for Gainesville-Hall County. I think 2021 is going to be a good year for employment, for housing, for job growth,” Evans said.
The hospitality industry took a large hit in 2020, both locally and nationally, but Evans said he believes Hall County will experience more recovery in that area in 2021 as people become more comfortable traveling and gathering in groups.