April 2007: Trend Radar

Teacher training: The prospect of a critical shortage of teachers for Georgia’s public school systems has the state’s education experts scrambling to plug a number of leaks in the supply pipeline. One chief priority among education groups such as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) is stemming the outward flow of teachers due to attrition during the first five years of a young educator’s career.

A 2006 study conducted by the Georgia Professional Standards Com-mission, an educator certification group, predicts teacher attrition could reach nearly 10 percent by 2012. According to the report, Georgia schools hired 12,949 new teachers in FY06. Of that number, “ … 9,748 were hired to replace those leaving the teacher workforce.”

Georgia already gets 25 percent of its teachers from other states and that supply, once threatened, has been stabilized somewhat by higher salaries. “We are in a competitive marketplace,” says PAGE executive and spokesman Tim Callahan. “Georgia teacher salaries are number one in the Southeast for that very reason [attracting out-of-state teachers].”

PAGE’s Teacher Academy is one effort to keep teachers on the education career path by nurturing them in the often-stressful early years. “We are trying to make them feel successful and connected to one another,” says Callahan.

“The old monastic life of the teacher, where new teachers were sort of thrown into the deep end of the pool on their first day, has changed,” Callahan says. “The days of ‘Here are your keys Miss Jones, see you in June’ are over. Teachers will vote with their feet if they are treated that way. New teachers are being paired with classroom veterans. We see young men and women who want to work in teams, be problem solvers and have a successful career.”

Bringing It Downtown: In college towns across Georgia, local business communities are learning that campus customers have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Last February, business leaders in Columbus got a glimpse at some hard numbers on the value of Columbus State University as an economic engine. Dr. Linda Hadley, dean of the university’s business school, offered a few facts connecting college and commerce. Among them: Students, faculty and staff purchase some 100,000 meals annually in the downtown Columbus area; in the past decade, university construction projects totaled $112 million and created nearly 1,000 construction jobs.

In addition, the 500 jobs housed in CSU’s various downtown buildings have an annual $10 million impact, Hadley says. And the school’s Corn Center For The Visual Arts and Theatre On The Park bring students, faculty and visitors downtown in the evenings, lengthening business hours.

“The widening cultural effect creates traffic downtown and that translates to economic impact,” Hadley says. Further economic benefits will come this fall when CSU’s business school institutes an MBA program downtown.

The Brain-Powered Economy: Georgia’s growing reputation in the research and development community is leading to a boom in jobs and cash flow in the state’s most populated region, according to reports from the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education (ARCHE).

Georgia Tech, Emory and UGA were among the top 50 U.S. universities for research and development spending in a National Science Foundation report published in February. The three state leaders spent $1.07 billion on R&D in 2006, an increase of 40 percent over FY2000. Add the Atlanta area’s eight other higher education institutions and the total hits $1.2 billion, creating a considerable economic engine.

“We found that every dollar spent in higher education has a $2 impact on the local economy,” says ARCHE President Mike Gerber. The source of those R&D dollars? “A large percentage of [the R&D funds] are coming from outside the state,” he says.

“It is privately raised money; it is federal research money; it is industry research money. True, there is some state money, but the out-of-state money is new money being introduced to the Georgia economy.”

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features