The Savannah MSA’s manufacturing firms created approximately 19% of the area’s economic output as measured by GDP, accounting for $4.3 billion of output in 2019. As of mid-2020, the number of manufacturing establishments in the Savannah CSA was 396 firms employing 22,489 workers with average weekly wage of $1,445.
Manufacturers in the Savannah MSA lost approximately 700 workers (-3.7%) during 2020, reflecting the impact of the pandemic. A review of recent announcements from headlining companies in the sector point toward a brighter year in 2021. The manufacturing workforce was 18,200 at the end of 2020 and is expected to increase in 2021.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation is the largest private employer in Savannah with a global workforce of 11,400 workers in production, service, maintenance, engineering, and research and development. Amid the backdrop of a challenging Covid-19 business climate in which supply-chain disruptions slowed deliveries in 2020, Gulfstream optimized its customer service and support network by expanding or building new facilities in Savannah as well as in Wisconsin, California, Florida, Texas and England. Production and deliveries are expected to increase into 2021, and as the global economy recovers, efficiency gains will materialize. The firm’s backlog of orders increased approximately 9% as compared to the previous year.
Flight-testing of the Gulfstream’s flagship G700 continued through 2020, with five planes now in the test-fleet. The G700, planned for entry in the market in 2022, will feature the tallest, widest, and longest cabin in the industry with leading range and speed capabilities. In May 2020, the G600 model earned certification approval for the European Union market. Gulfstream delivered the last of its G550 aircraft in 2020. While manufacturing of the model has ended, over 600 G550 aircraft remain in service. In June, Gulfstream delivered the 200th midsize G280 model. Production of the G280 aircraft began in 2012.
JCB remained busy in 2020. With a workforce of approximately 800 employees, the Pooler facility hosts manufacturing operations and the offices of the company’s North American headquarters. In July, JCB secured another contract with the U.S. military to supply a fleet of high-speed excavators. This contract is worth approximately $269 million over the next eight years. Since the first multi-year contract award in 2005 and subsequent extensions, total sales of the machine to the U.S. military and allied nations amount to 1,200 units.
The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) continues to work with its partners at the state and local level to attract new job opportunities and investment to Chatham County. As of November 2020, SEDA helped facilitate 956 new job opportunities and $251 million in investment for the year.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony In December 2020 officially opened the SEDA’s $38 million Savannah Chatham Manufacturing Center (SCMC). With the opening, land for 2.6 million square feet industrial development became available on a 631-acre tract featuring individual parcels from 6.3 to 95.6 upland acres to accommodate Advanced Manufacturing. The GRAD certified site is ideally located near I-16 and I-95, the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport, and the Port of Savannah. In addition, the SCMC is 14 miles from the Georgia Quick Start Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.
In a move that supports workers in manufacturing and other economic sectors, SEDA created the Workforce Initiatives Fund in the amount of $375,000 to assist licensed childcare facilities in Chatham County to become Quality Rated through capital improvement mini-grants. As of November 2020, SEDA has awarded a total of $54,400 to 38 facilities located in Chatham County. SEDA also completed its inaugural Economic Development for Educators program designed to create, strengthen, and grow the relationships between the public school system and local employers in leading industries.