In early 2004 Georgia Trend's circulation was about 50,000, and the magazine is popular with business and government leaders in the state. Industry and economic development are covered in a monthly feature called "Our State," which focuses on a particular city, county, or region. Other recurring elements in Georgia Trend include the annual "Economic Yearbook" and "Industry Outlook" reports, the "Georgia Cities of Excellence" list (created in cooperation with the Georgia Municipal Association), the "100 Most Influential Georgians" list, and the "40 under 40" list, which profiles forty of Georgia's rising political and business stars who have yet to celebrate their fortieth birthday.
Modeled after the magazine Florida Trend (which began publication in 1958), Georgia Trend was established by the newspaper company of the St. Petersburg Times, whose president, the former Atlanta Constitution editor Gene Patterson, saw the need in his home state for a magazine similar to Florida Trend. Although the circulation of Georgia Trend rose to nearly 40,000 during its first five years, the magazine was not profitable. (Another Florida Trend offshoot, Arizona Trend, had already opened and closed.) In June 1991 Georgia Trend was sold to Millard Grimes, who had owned and operated newspapers in several metropolitan Atlanta counties and published a quarterly magazine called Georgia Journal.
Grimes, whose award-winning journalism career has spanned nearly six decades, streamlined the Georgia Trend staff to cut costs. The magazine continued to thrive editorially, with exacting profiles on such figures as the former governor Carl Sanders and the newspaper columnist and humorist Lewis Grizzard, and with such prescient stories as "Is Henry County the Next Gwinnett?" Just fourteen months after taking over Georgia Trend, however, Grimes—whose other publications were also struggling financially—sold the magazine to the Gwinnett County entrepreneur Virgil Williams. Williams increased the magazine's marketing and advertising income and in late 1993 bought out a competing publication, Business Atlanta. By this time the magazine's circulation had increased to 50,000.
Almost immediately after selling Georgia Trend to Williams, Grimes began to feel the pangs of regret and hatched a plan to buy back the magazine. Grimes sold his flagship newspaper, the Rockdale Citizen, to Albany-based Gray Communications and was able to finance the repurchase (at a much higher price) of Georgia Trend from Williams in April 1994. Grimes continued his stewardship of Georgia Trend until December 1998, when he sold the magazine to the Atlanta real-estate developer Tom Cousins and his partner Neely Young. A veteran journalist with more than thirty years' newspaper experience in Georgia (starting out as a photographer in Valdosta in 1967), Young became the magazine's editor and publisher.