Perry Barnett, partner and head of Business Services at Rushton, recently joined a prestigious panel of Northeast Georgia experts to discuss business trends as part of the Greater Hall Chamber’s Small Business Economic and Political Forecast.
The program was held August 13, 2019, at Lanier Technical College. Other members of the diverse panel included Georgia state representative Lee Hawkins; Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System; and Brett Fowler, vice president and partner with Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance. Brian Rochester of Rochester & Associates, the current Chamber chairman, moderated the discussion.
In Perry’s remarks, he struck a positive tone for the health of the local economy, pointing out that Hall County is a leader in job creation in Georgia, which is the 9th largest state economy in the United States. In fact, if Georgia were a country, it would represent the 22nd largest economy among nearly 200 countries in the world today.
He cited Hall County’s economic diversity as a key element of the region’s success. Healthcare is the No. 1 contributor to Gainesville-Hall County’s $7 billion economy, followed by agribusiness and manufacturing.
While local and national economic trends are positive, Perry pointed out that there has been a recent slowdown after 35 consecutive months of manufacturing growth. One factor impacting construction this year, he said, has been the weather with 12 months of rain resulting in approximately 60 days of project delays. Another factor has been the ongoing U.S.-China trade war which has led many companies to pull back on major investments as they assess and await the outcome.
“Caution is the rule of the day,” Perry said. “But I encourage businesses to continue to invest in technology and becoming more efficient in their operations.”
From a national perspective, Perry cited student loan debt as a major concern affecting families and first-time home buyers. The 2018 federal tax reform bill cut taxes in half for businesses and was a boost for the economy, but he pointed out that many individuals did not feel the same impact because the tax cuts in their paychecks were spread out throughout the year.
In terms of the state economy, Perry pointed out an interesting observation about the shift in the list of metro Atlanta’s largest businesses. Delta Airlines, the perennial leader on the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s annual list of Atlanta’s top employers, was replaced this year by Emory University – which also includes Emory Hospital.
This trend illustrates the impact of healthcare as an economic engine, much like Northeast Georgia Medical Center which leads Gainesville-Hall County as the largest employer with over 9,000 professionals.
A former chairman of the Greater Hall Chamber Board of Directors, Perry Barnett is a frequent speaker and panelist for numerous business forums throughout Northeast Georgia.
“Perry has the interesting perspective of seeing inside a lot of businesses throughout the region and internationally as well”, said Chamber Chairman Brian Rochester. “So, he understands what is really going on at many levels and sectors of the economy.”