For nearly one hundred years, the Georgia Chamber has partnered with elected leaders to identify and implement policies that will grow our state’s economy, foster job creation, and ensure a high quality of life for all Georgians. This collaboration between the business community and government has resulted in a state that ranks consistently as one of the best to do business and, thanks to the vision and leadership of Governor Nathan Deal, will continue to do so long into the future.
One of the Governor’s first actions upon taking office was the creation of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative – a public-private effort to update and enhance our state’s economic development strategy. Our Chamber was proud to be asked to co-chair this initiative with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and to have the opportunity to listen to and learn from thousands of business leaders what they believed were the keys to revitalizing our economy.
As we traveled to each of the state’s economic development districts, we examined both opportunities and challenges in the areas most important to business – and we learned a great deal.
We heard that while Georgia boasts some of the nation’s best research institutions and technical training programs, there is still a lot of work to do at the K-12 level, and that sometimes the curriculum offered is not necessarily meeting the needs of today’s employers.
We heard that small businesses and entrepreneurs are not always getting the support they need to be successful, that businesses often feel overburdened by regulatory and tax policies that are no longer in line with today’s economy, and that the state’s economic incentive structure needs revision in order to put us on an even playing field with other states.
We heard that all Georgians – no matter what part of the state they are in – understand the need for connectivity to our ports, to our airports and to other regions. In fact, many participants indicated that they were willing to support the regional transportation referendum on the ballot this year, understanding the transformative impact passage will have on their communities and that there is no other funding option available for needed transportation improvements.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we heard that, as it has throughout our state’s history, Georgia’s business community is ready to take bold action and do the hard work alongside our elected officials to get our economy going again.
Without question, the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative achieved what was intended. Governor Deal has already shared a number of legislative proposals resulting from this effort - each of which directly address the issues raised during the process, and some of which will have an immediate impact on our state’s ability to attract new jobs and investment.
In particular, we encourage the General Assembly to agree to the Governor’s proposal to remove the sales tax on energy used for manufacturing, mining and agriculture. Each of these industries plays a significant role in our state’s economy and has potential for growth. We cannot afford to lose that opportunity as a result of being the only state that still taxes an unavoidable business input.
As important as any immediate actions will be a continued focus on the future, a long-term commitment to improving and refining Georgia’s economic development strategy and tools so that we stay ahead of, not just in-line with, our competition. There is no reason why our state cannot continue to be one of the very best in which to do business, and the Georgia Chamber looks forward to continuing to work with Governor Deal and all of our elected leaders to achieve that goal.