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Tracking programs created to bring jobs to Georgia | Business

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Tracking programs created to bring jobs to Georgia
Business, News, Politics
Tracking programs created to bring jobs to Georgia

ATLANTA -- With Georgia's unemployment rate remaining in double digits, 11Alive journalists are busy digging into three programs that promised to create jobs.

One of them is the federal stimulus program.

According to the state's Stimulus Accountability website, the federal government has granted Georgia approximately $3.2 billion in stimulus funds. Georgia's unemployment rate was around 8.8 percent just prior to the start of the stimulus program. Two years later, unemployment has risen to the current rate of 10.1 percent.

Where are the stimulus jobs?

In Paulding County, the stimulus program is getting mixed reviews.

Paulding County has received approximately $46 million in federal stimulus funds. The unemployment rate there was 6 percent in 2008 before the stimulus program. Unemployment in Paulding has risen to its current rate of 10.6 percent.

Perhaps the largest stimulus program in Paulding County is the $16 million construction of the East Hiram Parkway. The onsite project manager estimates he's hired 18 new employees who will work on the project the next 2.5 years. More people could be hired in the future.

Scott Mitchell was unemployed for 9 months before he was hired to work on the project.

"If it wasn't for this, I don't know what I would have done," Mitchell said. "I almost lost everything. A friend of mine owns a company and he's working on stimulus money now. He's picked up five or six friends of mine."

In the county seat of Dallas, more than $600,000 in stimulus funds went into the construction of a park.

Mayor Boyd Austin said as far as he's concerned, stimulus money has done very little to help the unemployment picture in his area.

"It has helped with some projects and some issues and maybe saved some jobs," the mayor said. "But it never really created and added to the economy like they thought it would."

Atlanta's jobs push

In March, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the beginning of the Hire One initiative: a push to encourage 150,000 local businesses to hire one person each.

Mayor Reed set an initial goal of 10,000 new jobs by June, a benchmark he said has now been surpassed.

The mayor teamed up with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, which is a media partner of 11Alive.

Mayor Reed said while unemployment is still the central issue facing Atlanta, it's important to distinguish between Georgia and Atlanta unemployment data and considers Hire One to be a success.

"In Atlanta, the most recent unemployment numbers are trending down," he said. "Hire One is an unqualified success. Just think about it - what we've been doing is encouraging private sector companies. Now 1,400 of them have hired 12,000 people who did not have jobs before the Hire One campaign started."

Hire One's website lists companies who claim to have hired under the initiative. SunTrust Bank posts the largest number: 552 jobs. However, the company tells us those numbers are tallied beginning in January, which is two months before Hire One was announced.

Meanwhile, Southern Lighting Source lists four new hires, three of those full-time employees. The company said they have recently seen their business turn around, which allowed them to hire additional staff, but also credit Hire One with having an impact.

Even 11Alive has made three new hires under Hire One, all of which are positions the company would have filled with or without the initiative.

Some Hire One companies are still looking for workers. For job opportunities and resources, click here.

Does Georgia Works work?

Georgia Works is a program that could become the model for a labor plan proposed by President Obama.

The Georgia program, started by former state labor comissioner Michael Thurmond, has been a model for similar programs in 30 other states.

"And now, seven years later, to be here standing on the doorstep of nationalizing the strategy -- it's quite phenomenal and quite honestly, quite rewarding," said Thurmond.

Since the program started, more than 23,000 unemployed workers have received eight weeks of on-the-job training with more than 16,000 private employers all over the state.

Each trainee receives $240 toward expenses, over and above their unemployment benefits, while they participate in the program.

Twenty-four percent of the trainees got jobs from companies they trained with, while 60 percent found jobs with other companies within 90 days of completing the training.

When the program initially opened last year to anyone who was unemployed, it nearly went under from the high costs of providing the stipends to trainees.

Former Labor Commissioner: State leadership 'responsible' for poor record of job creation

The Labor Department has scaled the program back to only cover people who are presently receiving unemployment benefits. Department officials said they are reevaluating what to do next.

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