Economic Prosperity Requires Action on Crime

August 20, 2021 – A decade ago, businesses shifted their expansion, location, and relocation decisions from a model founded on incentives and infrastructure to one based on access to talent. Vibrant communities, otherwise known as live, work, play, and pray communities, have become the true economic drivers. No longer do workers move to better jobs. Today, better jobs move to workers.

Now, companies routinely locate in communities where potential and current employees reside. Redevelopment and new urban experiments are exploding across the nation in efforts to create this all-inclusive lifestyle. Common traits among these “superstar cities” or “up-and-comers” are quality education, world class infrastructure, vibrant town centers, unique night life, and the all-purposeful greenspace. However, the truly successful ones are also anchored by a strong public safety and health system. And in this anchor lies the key to solving the “Great Resignation” as we know it today and addressing future talent demands.

Our current labor shortage crisis has reinforced the importance of focusing on present and future team members. Most every human resource manager will tell you that effectively managing external societal forces which impact the mental health of the workforce are critical to any company’s long-term success. And, as if those concerns were not overwhelming enough, I am also hearing corporate leaders and small business owners share their growing concerns over the impact of crime on their employees, customers, clients, and families. These concerns take me back to my days at the Department of Natural Resources and the opportunity I had to serve over 500 law enforcement Rangers throughout the state. I recall praying with my son every night for their safety as they stood up for ours. Those Rangers, State Patrol officers, our local sheriffs and deputies, and policemen and women everywhere deserve our respect and much-needed support as a business community.

According to data released by the FBI, homicide rates1 were 25% higher in 2020 than in 2019. What’s more concerning is that this is the highest single year increase they’ve seen since reliable tracking began nearly six decades ago. Crime is surging. There is no question. In the last few weeks, our Chamber team witnessed an attack in broad daylight, looked out their windows onto a murder and found cars broken into, after returning from a business lunch. A pastor in rural Georgia told me that his congregation’s biggest concern was growing crime in their town of 10,000 people. So, what can we do as a statewide advocate of business to address crime and support those who are on the front lines every day?

Studies have shown that social disruptions and economic pattern shifts might be a reason for this surge. This pivotal premise requires us to then address issues from mental health and homelessness to childcare, equality, and equity among our more impoverished areas. Investments in small business start-ups, educational certifications and programs should be priority as we work to provide alternatives and better paths to prosperity while tapping vast resources among uncharted workforce communities. And we must continue to support and properly fund our public safety and health institutions. These are the reasons why we are asking every Chamber in Georgia, every business, and every partner to engage with their local governments, law enforcement, and our General Assembly to address these concerns.

For 10 years, Georgia has made great strides in criminal justice reform and businesses have found a strong and dedicated pipeline of labor from ex-offenders.  Now state and local leaders have mobilized to lead a truly bipartisan effort to tackle these new problems head on.

Governor Kemp stated at our Congressional Luncheon just this week, “Simply put, if crime is rampant on the streets of your local community, businesses will look elsewhere, workforces will leave, visitors won’t show up, and investment will stop…” urging us all to engage and begin dialogue with our local public safety professionals. Speaker David Ralston has said there is a “clear link” between the state’s strained law enforcement agencies and an underfunded mental health system. He went on to share, that mental health has too long been dismissed in the Georgia health care system. And Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan has recently announced that he wants the General Assembly to create a law enforcement focused state tax credit2, so Georgians, and our business community can better support public safety.

Working closely with state legislators, sheriffs, police chiefs and local partners will be critical as businesses continue to reopen, expand, and grow in this New Georgia Economy. I invite everyone to join us on August 25 at the Georgia Tech Research Institute for our Transforming Talent3 event, presented by AT&T. Together, we will unpack issues, like crime, which are contributing to the “Great Resignation”, and move forward through recovery into a more resilient, safer future together.


Authored by Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber

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