Once the cultural and economic capital of the Antebellum South, marked by plantation agriculture and white landed aristocracy as portrayed in the bestselling novel Gone With the Wind, Georgia today is the epicenter of the “New South.” With a population of more than 450,000 African slaves on the eve of the Civil War, Georgia is now home to a significant black middle class. More than 3.1 million African Americans live in Georgia - the largest black population in any U.S. state and the third highest proportion (over 30%) after Mississippi and Louisiana. 60% of Georgians are white, 8% are Hispanic and 3% are Asian.
The largest state east of the Mississippi River, with a topography that varies from mountains in the north to rolling hills in the center and coastal plains in the south (aka “the lowcountry”), Georgia nonetheless is dominated by its capital, Atlanta. More than half of the state's 9.9 million residents live in the Atlanta metro area (the 9th largest in the U.S.), which posted a strong population growth rate of 6.2% between 2010 and 2014. Much of this growth occurred as a result of sprawling residential development in the suburbs.
Atlanta’s median home value of $247,463 as of 2015 makes it relatively affordable compared to some of the other top 10 metro areas like New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Real estate in other areas of the state is significantly less expensive, however. In historic Savannah on the coast, for example, the median home value was $163,959 in 2015. Statewide, the median home value was $169,148 - roughly $10,000 lower than the national average – while the median household income was $49,179.
A regional transportation hub that’s home to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, “Hotlanta” is headquarters to numerous large corporations, including Delta (the world's largest airline in terms of passengers carried), Home Depot, United Parcel Service, Equifax, SunTrust Banks, Newell Rubbermaid and of course, Coca-Cola, the most widely recognized brand on the planet. Currently, 20 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Georgia, with 18 of them in Atlanta.
Though now owned by the New York conglomerate Time Warner, the revolutionary Cable News Network (CNN), founded by Ted Turner in 1980, is also based in Atlanta. CNN is credited with reinventing television news as the first to offer 24-hour coverage of world events from its Atlanta studios, and through its network of cable channels, radio networks and websites, it now claims an audience of over 2 billion people in more than 200 countries.
Georgia also continues to be an agricultural force in the U.S. The Peach State actually ranks 3rd in peach production behind California and South Carolina, but its peanut, pecan, blueberry and broiler (chicken) production leads the nation. In addition, Georgia's land area is two-thirds forested, mostly by pine trees, and the state has more commercial timber land than any other state. Given these factors, 1 in 7 Georgians works in agriculture, timber or associated industries, and agribusiness adds roughly $72 billion to the state economy each year.
Nicknamed “Empire State of the South,” Georgia led the South in the production of textiles during the 19th century, with 50 cotton mills in operation by the mid-1850s. Small-scale industrialization made textile production more efficient, but ultimately created a bust in the market when prices fell due to oversupply. However, the infrastructure established by the old textile industry allowed Georgia to profit by producing “tufted” carpets, which became increasingly popular with American consumers during the 1950s. Today the carpet industry remains heavily concentrated in a 65-mile radius area around Dalton, Georgia, that generates 85% of the U.S. carpet and rug market and approximately $8 billion in economic activity.
In contrast to the long-standing traditions of agriculture and manufacturing, one of Georgia’s newest economic drivers is the entertainment industry, thanks to attractive incentives offered by the state. In fiscal year 2015 (July 2014-June 2015), Georgia boasted 248 film and television projects (including the hit television show The Walking Dead) and over $6 billion in economic impact. Other leading sectors of the economy include the energy industry, automotive industry (thanks to a Kia Motors plant and some 250 facilities employing over 18,000 people) and tourism industry (which injected $57 billion in the economy in 2014 and employs more than 400,000 residents).