Profile: Savannah, Georgia
Population: 130,300 (city), 329,000 (metro)
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8
Major Airport: Savannah International Airport
Companies with a Major Presence: Gulfstream Aerospace, International Paper, Savannah College of Art and Design, Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia Pacific
Savannah has had some star turns in pop culture in the past decade, namely as the setting for the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the hometown of celebrity chef Paula Deen. The book and the cook have put the spotlight on this colonial Southern seaport and its eccentric cast of locals. But the real draw remains Savannah itself, a lovely tree-shaded pedestrian-friendly city laid out by General James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733 and organized around 28 shady squares. Those parklike squares, each about an acre in size, offer a healthy, attractive alternative to the suburbs that has drawn young, eco-conscious professionals to live downtown in the old neighborhoods. Savannah’s residential brownstones, mansions and 19th-century commercial districts have new life. But there’s more to the city than its historic district.
Once a port town, always a port town. In the early 20th century, Savannah was a global leading exporter of cotton and naval stores products. But after the cotton industry was devastated by the boll weevil, new industries like paper-pulp production filled the void and were the impetus behind shipyard expansion. Thunderbolt, an unincorporated town situated between downtown and the beach that began its history as a processing port for the fishing community, is home to the historically black institution Savannah State University.
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield have brought soldiers and their families to Savannah since the beginning of WWII. The base houses units of the Army’s vaunted 3d Infantry Division, including the “Marne Division’s’” Aviation Brigade. Its nearly two-mile-long runway (11,375-ft) and nearby port support the installation’s rapid deployment needs, including for the C-5 Galaxy, and the runway has the unique distinction of being an alternate landing site for NASA’s space shuttles.