Trend Radar: September 2008

Putting the Cart Before the Horsepower: A flood of new developments and products has electrified Georgia’s transportation industry. Last summer when Augusta golf cart manufacturer Club Car rolled out its first street-legal electric vehicle, the event seemed to symbolize the state’s growing role as a center for the development of alternative power sources to combat rising gas prices.

At the same time, another Augusta golf cart company, E-Z-GO, was reporting double-digit sales increases for the second quarter of 2008. And in July, Gaetano Mannino, former president and CEO of Rome, Ga.-based Pirelli Tire North America, introduced the Xebra, an electric car that resembles a computer mouse with wheels. The Xebra is the product of Mannino’s consulting firm and a California company that produces environmentally friendly electric vehicles.

Residents in Georgia’s most famous electric cart community, Peachtree City, have been watching all this with a “we-knew-it-all-the-time” attitude. Peachtree City, a planned golf cart community since 1959, is home to 9,200 registered golf carts. That number will grow when Wilksmoor, its fifth village, is hooked up to the cart paths that weave through the town. Wilksmoor will add about 1,300 homes and 3,000 new residents to Peachtree City’s current population of 36,000.

“We have commercial centers and office parks around town that folks who live and work here can drive their carts to,” says Betsy Tyler, the city’s public information officer. “And we’re working to link the cart paths to our industrial park.”

The non-polluting, quiet commutes are attracting attention. Higher fuel costs are generating interest from homebuyers and golf cart community developers. “Of course our residential growth will be market driven,” Tyler says.

Mike Read, Club Car’s director of marketing, is seeing growth in the demand for his carts coming from Georgia’s expanding logistics industry. The little electric carts are ideal for getting around the huge warehouses and distribution center that dot the state. And golf cart community developers also are seeking advice. “Even before they put a shovel in the ground, they have come to us,” Read says.

Georgians “Go Parking”: When Atlanta-area resident Tom Mills took his family out to get dirty, he did it in a big way. “We’ve gotten out; we’ve gotten dirty, that’s for sure; and we’ve definitely gotten fit,” says Mills, on his YouTube posting where he described his family’s adventures while visiting 30 Georgia state parks in 30 days, a trip that covered 2,000 miles.

Mills was answering Gov. Sonny Perdue’s challenge to Georgians to “Get Out. Get Dirty. Get Fit.” as part of a promotion encouraging them to visit state parks for inexpensive vacations. Using partners such as Google, which provided the YouTube channel (, the promotion is aimed at new adventures for parents and their kids.

“It’s all about getting families up off the couch and into the outdoors,” says Sally Winchester, marketing and communications manager for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. “It seems like a strange partnership with Google and the state parks and the YouTube channel when we’re trying to get people away from that. But that’s where they are and that’s where we have to go.”

The promotion seems to be working. “We’re seeing more Georgia license plates in the parking lots, that’s for sure,” Winchester says.

Smart Growth on the Coast: Growth along Georgia’s tranquil coast has been, well, tranquil, when compared to the rest of the Atlantic Seaboard.

But that’s changing, says Jim Sanders, director of the Skidaway Island Institute, an educational and research facility near Savannah.

To ensure smarter development along Georgia’s coast, Skidaway is partnering with departments at Georgia Tech’s Savannah campus to offer a unique study program that combines science and engineering courses. Its graduates will be distinctly equipped to help developers and other coastal interests prevent environmentally harmful mistakes in their planning.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features