MONTGOMERY, Ala. -

A new study shows Georgia leads the nation in the growth of new women-owned businesses for the first time.

The number of firms started by women since 1997 has shown faster growth in Georgia than anywhere else in the nation. The number of firms has expanded by more than 111 percent, according to a report commissioned by American Express OPEN.

Georgia was the only state to see triple-digit growth, according to the study, and businesses owned by females will contribute more than $44 billion to the state's economy this year.

Atlanta ranked sixth in metropolitan areas when the number of employees and the growth by annual income were factored in to create an "economic clout" ranking.

The state has more than 308,000 women-owned firms.