Georgia had 9,804 manufacturing firms in 1997. The total value of shipments was $127 billion in that year. Important products included textiles, clothing, aircraft, soft drinks, paper, paints and varnishes, bricks and tiles, glassware, and ceramics.

Georgia was primarily an agrarian state before the Civil War, but afterward the cities developed a strong industrial base by taking advantage of abundant waterpower to operate factories. Textiles have long been dominant, but new industries have also been developed. Charles H. Herty, a chemist at the University of Georgia, discovered a new method of extracting turpentine which worked so well that Georgia led the nation in producing turpentine, tar, rosin, and pitch by 1982. Herty also perfected an economical way of making newsprint from southern pines, which was adopted by Georgia's paper mills. With the onset of World War II, meat-processing plants were built at rail centers, and fertilizer plants and cottonseed mills were expanded.

The state's—and Atlanta's—most famous product was created in 1886 when druggist John S. Pemberton developed a formula which he sold to Asa Griggs Candler, who in 1892 formed the Coca-Cola Co. In 1919, the Candlers sold the company to a syndicate headed by Ernest Woodruff, whose son Robert made "Coke" into the world's most widely known commercial product. The transport equipment, chemical, food-processing, apparel, and forest-products industries today rival textiles in economic importance.

Georgia's heavily forested northern region is dominated by carpet mills, especially around Dalton. In the piedmont plateau, manufacturing is highly diversified, with textiles and transportation equipment the most significant.

In 1997, 13 of the nation's 500 largest industrial corporations listed by Fortune magazine had headquarters in Georgia.

Earnings of persons employed in Georgia increased from $139.9 billion in 1997 to $151.7 billion in 1998, an increase of 8.4%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 26.0% of earnings; state and local government, 10.0%; and transportation and public utilities, 9.5%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was nondurable goods manufacturing (8.9% of earnings in 1998), which increased 4.7%; the fastest was finance, insurance, and real estate (7.3% of earnings in 1998), which increased 10.3%.