By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

It’s no secret that during an election season, polarizing debates and partisan politics can often overshadow the work being done on behalf of all Georgians. As we reflect on the last two years and the issues that have been most important for the business community, I’m proud of the bipartisanship, civility and integrity displayed by our state’s elected leaders to solve problems and deliver solutions that move our state forward.

Over the course of the 2023-2024 Legislative Biennium, the Georgia Chamber team and our Government Affairs Council diligently tracked over 850 bills and budget items directly impacting the free enterprise system in our state. Our policy positions and initiatives are carefully crafted to develop new ideas and strategic solutions that drive innovation, ingenuity and real results for our members, communities, partners and the over 3 million represented employees in every county of the state.

The general assembly passed several pieces of key legislation improving Georgia’s infrastructure, workforce development and competitiveness. We’re also appreciative of the work accomplished in the legislature to protect the economic incentives and tools that have contributed greatly to our state’s record-breaking growth.

Led by the policy initiatives of Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Burt Jones and Speaker Jon Burns, the general assembly made significant progress in reducing our state's income tax rate, aligning the corporate tax with the personal rate and increasing tax deductions for Georgia's families and homeowners. These policies provide relief for small businesses and hardworking Georgians as inflation and high interest rates continue to impact the national economic landscape.

Thanks to the work of our HUB Chamber Council representing our military communities, significant progress was made in improving our occupational licensing procedures with the passage of House Bill 880. Prior to the passage of this legislation, spouses of Georgia’s active-duty service members were burdened by excessive wait times for the transfer of their occupational licenses, often having to wait up to nine months for approval to work following a move from out of state. HB 880 ensures that qualified military spouses can obtain their occupational licenses within 30 days of application after receiving official orders of a permanent change of station. These updates strengthen Georgia’s robust military community and the greater economy by increasing access to employment in some of our highest-demand careers.

Georgia experienced a year of unprecedented economic growth in 2023 with over $24 billion in investments and 38,000 jobs created through 426 new or expanded project locations. These accomplishments are a result of strategic policy implementation and our world-class infrastructure network that consists of 125,508 miles of roadway, 3,288 miles of Class I rail, 1,012 miles of Class III rail, two deep-water ports, two inland ports with a third in development, five intermodal rail yards and nine commercial airports. We know that to keep up with the increased demand our freight and logistics system will face, we must make investments to strengthen and secure our critical infrastructure. We commend Gov. Brian Kemp for his historic $1.5 billion down payment on the future of Georgia’s infrastructure and the general assembly for their passage of HB 617 codifying the Georgia Freight 2050 Program.

Another important component of maintaining our economic competitiveness is ensuring that Georgians in every corner of the state have access to quality affordable healthcare. In our 2024 Executive Insights Survey, 63% of respondents cited access to healthcare as a top issue impacting our state’s future competitiveness. The general assembly passed legislation to expand the rural hospital tax credit, increasing access to healthcare in some of our state’s most vulnerable communities and fortifying our healthcare infrastructure to withstand our current and future growth by creating a new dental school at Georgia Southern University and a new medical college at the University of Georgia.

As Georgia faces significant opportunities to increase workforce participation and preparedness, the general assembly responded by passing legislation to bolster our education-to-workforce pipeline and expand opportunities for employment throughout the state. Legislation was passed to increase participation in some of Georgia’s highest-demand careers through k-12 education programs. We also commend the legislature for their expansion of policies to increase second chance hiring initiatives and literacy.

The business community fought hard to increase access to homeownership and affordable housing for Georgia’s workforce but for the second year, this vitally important issue has failed to advance. However, Governor Kemp’s Rural Workforce Housing Initiative to facilitate new housing developments in rural regions did pass and will help ease the burden for many Georgians.

Finally, we applaud the Georgia General Assembly for passing meaningful reforms to our civil justice system. Senate Bill 83 and Senate Bill 426 make significant changes to our state's legal environment and take steps to reduce skyrocketing insurance rates for Georgia’s businesses and citizens. We will continue to work alongside Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Jones, Speaker Burns and Insurance Commissioner King to develop a long-term legal reform strategy.

'What’s good for business is good for Georgia’ drives the policy development and advocacy efforts of the Georgia Chamber and our members. We look forward to continuing our work alongside our elected officials to make our state the best place to live, work, pray and play.

Click here to learn more about the Georgia Chamber’s legislative priorities from the 2024 session.

By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

It’s no surprise to anyone who has filled up their tank, been to the grocery store, or applied for a loan that sky-high inflation and increasing interest rates are placing an undue financial burden on citizens across the country and constraints on business investments. Here in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp suspended the gas tax for months and put money back in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers among other fiscal decisions that have helped ease the burden on Peach State families. However, at the end of the day, inflation and interest rates are D.C. problems that place an artificial cap on an otherwise healthy economy.

In addition to facing the challenges of inflation, young Georgians are finding it nearly impossible to afford their critical first homes because of increasing mortgage rates. Nationally, home purchases are down by over 14% since October of last year, and monthly payments on housing units have sky-rocketed by 53% from Q1 of 2022 to Q1 of 2023 alone. Interest rates between 6% and 7% coupled with the drastic decrease in new builds have forced many empty nesters to stay in homes they don’t need further limiting the available housing stock for first-time home buyers and making it even harder for them to afford their first home. The Georgia Chamber has supported legislation at the state level to increase the availability of housing and decrease barriers for homebuilders, but further action to reduce interest rates and housing costs is needed at the federal level.

Housing affordability isn’t the only problem. Georgia has the second-highest loan rates for both new and used vehicles in the country at 7.91% and 12.15% respectively. Transportation is a key reason many people aren’t working today, and these rates are making the problem worse!

While these issues are impacting Georgia’s families in a very real way, small businesses throughout the state are also struggling under the current economic conditions. In a recent survey, only 29% of small business owners said that their companies could afford to take out a loan with small business loan rates sitting between 7% and 9%. Many of these Main Street businesses already operate week to week, so it’s easy to see how even a small uptick in interest rates could ripple through their profit margins. In the same survey, 85% of respondents noted that if access to capital continues to tighten it will dramatically impact their growth by forcing them to halt expansion plans, implement hiring freezes, lay off workers, or close their doors altogether. These businesses are the heartbeat of our communities and deserve better!

Instead of decreasing barriers for small businesses to access loans, federal regulators chose to do the exact opposite. In July 2023, the Basel III Endgame Rule was proposed which would require large banks and most regional banks to increase their capital holdings by 20%. This rule will significantly reduce access to capital for Georgia’s small businesses, households, and consumers by forcing banks to offer less financing or offer it at a much higher cost. At the same time, Washington’s inaction on tax policy means many small businesses will be paying higher tax bills in 2025.

The Georgia Chamber, on behalf of the business community in every single county in the state, is taking a stand for small businesses, our employees, and communities by urging Washington lawmakers to address poorly conceived policy in the financial markets, and to pass much-needed tax break extensions. We also call on the Federal Reserve to take immediate action to reduce interest rates and remove the constraints hindering economic growth and prosperity. Homeownership matters. Small businesses matter. The auto industry and manufacturing matter. It’s time for Washington to act like it!

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Georgia has boasted record economic growth for five consecutive years with over $134 billion in capital investment, $68 billion in real GDP growth, over two thousand new or expanded project locations, and 268,000 jobs created throughout every corner of the state. Our economic development successes aren’t an accident of geography. They result from thoughtful policies that have yielded a strong, stable, and predictable business climate that has earned Georgia the designation of “Best Place for Business” for an unprecedented ten consecutive years. But as Governor Brian Kemp rightly noted in his second inaugural address, we can’t maintain our best-in-class business status by continuing the status quo.

Our business and elected leaders have recognized the need to equip our critical infrastructure network to support the magnitude of growth we have seen - and will continue to see - for the foreseeable future. Significant investments have already been made to increase the capacity of our ports and unclog some of the largest trucking intersections throughout our highway system. However, our state needs to invest an additional $1.5 billion annually to ensure the well-being of our infrastructure systems and secure future economic success.

We need visionary leadership to enact the policies that will keep Georgia thriving for decades to come. Georgia’s economic growth is sustainable only with a large and well-maintained freight network of roads, bridges, railways, and ports that can accommodate the trucks and rail cars needed to move goods to and from the booming Georgia Ports, to serve Georgia’s growing agriculture, manufacturing and logistics/distribution sectors, and to meet the exploding demand for e-commerce.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is currently developing a long-term, comprehensive plan for meeting these growing needs. We know what must get done: new roads, bridges, and rail, more limited access highways, and more inland ports. Georgia’s thriving business climate, enduring economy, and fully employed workforce have combined with the state’s conservative budgeting to produce a surplus into the next fiscal year. This gives policymakers the ability to make a significant down payment on our future infrastructure needs that will keep our economic engine humming over the next year without new revenue.

To give one example of improving mobility, there are 5,500 rail crossings on Georgia roads where cars must stop and wait for long trains to pass. Building infrastructure to allow traffic to go above or below the tracks would greatly increase travel times and safety – but would cost billions to complete.

From 2018 to 2045, the volume of freight moving in Georgia is expected to increase 48 percent, from 597 million tons valued at $875 billion in 2018 to 885 million tons worth $1.8 trillion in 2045. This means the number of trucks on the road will far exceed the 39 million that passed through Georgia weigh stations last year and trains will grow longer and slower.

Already, nine of the nation’s 100 worst truck bottlenecks are in Georgia with two in the top 5 worst (Spaghetti Junction and I-285/I-20 on the west side). These delays increase the cost of goods we buy, waste time and fuel, and yes, increase our stress levels.

The quicker we can act to upgrade our freight network, the better the results for taxpayers. The same supply chain and inflation issues that have driven up the prices of eggs and gas have also driven up the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges. Road resurfacing now costs up to $1.15 million per mile, road widening is up to $18.1 million per mile, and a new highway interchange costs up to $100 million per mile. These costs are only going to continue to rise year over year.

In the 2023 legislative session, leading members of the House and Senate highlighted the need for action and signaled repeatedly their intention to move forward next year. Policymakers can move forward knowing they have the support of the people of Georgia behind them. In a December poll, 70 percent of Georgians supported increasing transportation funding by $1.5 billion a year. The question is less, “Can we afford it?” and more, “Can we afford not to?”

This investment in our tomorrow must begin today. Together, we can build sustainable prosperity that benefits the businesses, citizens, and economy of Georgia.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and Neil L. Pruitt, Jr., Chairman & CEO, PruittHealth

Across Georgia and the country, we are experiencing a serious need for healthcare staff. Hospitals, senior care facilities, urgent care centers, local health clinics, and even imaging centers are facing long-term problems providing access to care for our citizens.

We’ve seen this issue progressively worsen since COVID as burnout, fluctuations in demand, rising turnover, and lawsuit abuse have led to skyrocketing medical malpractice costs, and as healthcare professionals desire more work-life balance. Most concerning is the decline in appreciation and respect for the value of front-line healthcare personnel. We’ve become a society that refuses to show gratitude for our most important workers: educators, public safety employees, and caregivers.

Right now, Georgia has nearly 40,000 job openings in the healthcare industry. In 24 months, we expect over 60,000 openings. By 2030, when the baby boomers retire, we’ll need 100,000. The demand for nurse practitioners will rise by 75%, physical therapists surge by 33%, home health workers by 37%, and demand for physician assistants will rise by 38%. In the next five years alone, we’ll need at least 16% more doctors as well. That’s right, by 2030 we’ll be in a full-blown crisis that will negatively impact care and public safety!

This has greatly affected the bottom line of healthcare facilities, with many of the country’s leading hospital systems posting massive losses. Institutions were already operating at the margins prior to 2020, but the pandemic only increased demands from facilities while also producing skyrocketing expenses.

In rural Georgia, we’ve seen the closing of smaller hospitals and community-based clinics creating more healthcare deserts, and significantly impacting maternal care and emergency medicine among other critical areas of patient care. Families across the state will face more challenges and less options when seeking a nurse for home health care and finding hospice care or a nursing home for their aging loved ones.

This staffing crisis is leading to ongoing delays related to boarding in emergency departments, prolonged admission to hospitals, and delayed elective and emergency surgeries. Each of these contributes to adverse outcomes, morbidity, and mortality. We know the problem; the question is do we have the resolve to find solutions?

Fortunately, Georgia leaders have shown their willingness to work on real-world solutions. In the last few years, we’ve increased funding for medical school slots and added a medical school in Savannah. Mercer Medical has expanded to Columbus and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has opened campuses in Moultrie and Suwanee. The general assembly created a tax credit program for private investments in rural communities and Governor Kemp offered targeted waivers to extend Medicare and Medicaid coverage of postpartum care. The state has also worked to improve mental health access and services.

But more work must be done at the state level and within our healthcare systems. Implementing the changes listed below can increase our competitiveness and ensure we are able to attract and retain healthcare talent.

Georgia’s healthcare system has undergone significant changes after the pandemic. We must continue working alongside our state’s lawmakers and healthcare providers to develop comprehensive solutions to the workforce shortage that benefit practitioners and patients alike.

For over 100 years, the Georgia Chamber has advocated on behalf of the well-being of Georgia businesses and communities. To learn more about the Chamber’s efforts to ensure the health and wellness of the Peach State, visit www.gachamber.com.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Economic Dynamism is a term that refers to an economy’s adaptability, resiliency, competitiveness, and ability to respond to disruption. Georgia is no stranger to adaptability and resiliency, proven through our emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic with one of the nation’s leading economies. In the last four years, thanks to the leadership of Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia has attracted over 1,700 projects, more than $65 billion of investment, and 165,000 jobs for the citizens of the Peach State.

As we look forward and continue to seek expansion and development in every corner of the state, there are several areas where Georgia’s economy is not reaching its full potential. To maintain our competitiveness in both the short and long term, we must focus on specific areas of growth that will allow us to see continued record-breaking investment.

In Q1 of this year, 32,000 employers were competing for talent to fill over 357,000 jobs. In fact, overall state employment is expected to grow 46% by 2050. Currently, there is only 1 person seeking employment for every 3 job postings, leaving Georgia ranked 33rd in Labor Force Participation. The success of Georgia businesses and ongoing economic development efforts hinges on our state’s ability to provide companies with a skilled labor force.

Georgia’s tax structure is fiscally responsible and straightforward, both of which keep our state competitive. The economic development tools and incentives implemented have earned our state the title of “Best Place to Do Business,” for an unprecedented nine consecutive years. Unfortunately, our legal climate has earned us another title that I’m not proud to hold: “Number One Judicial Hellhole.” For perspective, we overtook California to win that designation.

The skyrocketing number of nuclear verdicts in our state is costing Georgia households an extra $4,157 dollars in price hikes and inflation annually. The impact of these costs on small businesses is detrimental and often forces them to increase prices or close their doors altogether. Florida was the only state who had higher tort costs than Georgia, and what did they do in response? They signed sweeping reforms into law earlier this year.

Legal reform has been at the top of the Georgia Chamber’s priority list for several years, but unfortunately, progress has been difficult to achieve. However, we are undeterred and encourage policymakers to take immediate action on this issue to continue attracting development to our state and supporting existing industries as they navigate operational and workforce challenges.

A key indicator of economic dynamism is churn, meaning a robust small business sector is paramount. Georgia is ranked 3rd in the nation for the number of adults becoming entrepreneurs each month. Our first-year business survival rate continues to increase and now sits at 80%, which is above the national average, but still leaves us ranked 35th. Greater access to capital and support for entrepreneurs to start and grow their small businesses will bolster our first-year success rate and ensure the long-term prosperity of Georgia’s economy.

We have made great strides in increasing research and development initiatives through various public-private investments and partnerships. In 2021 our state’s colleges and universities posted $2.95 billion in research expenditures, and Georgia startups increased venture capital investments by nearly $2 billion. However, we still lag behind competitor states like Texas and North Carolina.

The Georgia Research Alliance is partnering with our state’s universities to increase R&D investments and grow our economy. In 2022, GRA-related expenditures totaled almost $900 million. These competitive public and private research dollars come from outside the state and support Georgia companies in hiring employees, renovating spaces, and purchasing equipment necessary for research and development. Building on our already strong innovation ecosystem by seeking outside investment in Georgia through R&D as well as venture capital will be vital to foster a dynamic economy for years to come.

The data is clear that Georgia’s overall economy is strong, and the continued efforts of our elected officials and business leaders have helped our state achieve unprecedented economic success. By continuing to focus on competitiveness, infrastructure, and workforce, we can ensure that Georgia remains competitive, resilient, and innovative while providing opportunities for increased dynamism.

To learn more about dynamism in Georgia’s economy, visit gachamber.com/economic-dynamism.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

As the state’s largest business advocacy organization, the Georgia Chamber has worked diligently alongside state leaders and lawmakers to ensure that Georgia’s tax structure and economic policy are some of the most competitive and fiscally responsible in the nation. For over 40 years, companies have flocked to our state because of our pro-job creation philosophy. Having consistent tax and regulatory systems is common sense in a world dominated by economic uncertainty. Now, we need the Federal government to follow suit and mirror the same approach that our state leaders follow.

In 2017, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act brought about the most comprehensive tax overhaul the United States had seen in over three decades. Many of the provisions were beneficial for Georgia businesses. However, our members have identified several areas of the legislation that require immediate and significant fixes to protect small businesses and start-ups here in Georgia.

A provision found in Section 174 pertains to research and development initiatives, and starting this year, will limit how those expenses can be deducted. As companies, especially in their early years of operation, are investing heavily in new products, technologies, and processes, their upfront research and development expenses are substantial. I have heard from hundreds of Chamber members that this change disincentivizes them from engaging in new product development, posing a significant threat to the state’s innovation ecosystem. When these important deductions are stripped from our businesses, it dramatically impacts their ability to invest and hire new employees.

Another change in Section 179 previously allowed companies to invest in necessary capital equipment because Bonus Depreciation was expanded to 100% of its purchasing price. This was a good thing for small and start-up businesses. Now, changes to that practice significantly reduce the ability of companies, especially in Georgia’s robust construction and manufacturing industries, to invest in new equipment and technology. These are areas that grow the tax base of local communities and increase the productivity of businesses, making them a priority to preserve.

A provision found in Section 163(J) made a change that limits the amount of business interest expense based on the amount of interest income. This policy gets complicated, but the bottom line is that this deduction has been an invaluable asset to hometown businesses. As rising interest rates continue to impact Georgia companies and families, action must be taken to shield our business community from unpredictable national economic trends.

Finally, section 199A of the federal tax code was revised to allow many mom-and-pop businesses to deduct up to 20% of their income. At the end of 2026, this provision will no longer apply, leaving small businesses, S Corps, LLCs, and others much worse off than before the 2017 legislation was implemented. Soon, Georgia’s small businesses could be paying more taxes than multinational firms. Over 95% of companies in our state are small businesses and will experience the impacts of this problem.

Congress must stop playing political games and prioritize the well-being of the business community both here in Georgia and throughout the nation. Fair and predictable tax policies are vital for the success of Georgia companies and the continued record-breaking economic development and investment our state has experienced. Reach out to your senator or congressman today and ask them to make these changes before it’s too late!

To learn more about the Georgia Chamber’s efforts to fight business-killing legislation in Washington, visit www.gachamber.com.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

After an unprecedented year of business development with over $21 billion of investment from 348 projects in 2022, Governor Kemp, Lt Governor Jones, Speaker Burns, and the Georgia General Assembly have proven they are dedicated to continuing that trend in 2023.

During the 40-day legislative session, the Georgia Chamber worked on over 350 bills. Ultimately, our Government Affairs Council, the largest business advocacy organization in the country, chose to support bills that would positively impact Georgia’s economy and growing workforce. Highlights of those bills include personal income and property tax relief; heightened public safety measures for our communities and healthcare facilities; increased penalties for damages to our critical infrastructure; expanded access to education and literacy resources for our future workforce; and the initial policy framework to build out Georgia’s growing electric vehicle support systems.

But with growing global economic uncertainty, a rising and disruptive China, increased competition from other states, and a federal tax system that punishes business, we know there is still much work to be done to ensure we can sustain high-quality growth that ensures Georgians in every corner of the state have access to high paying jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Several important issues including workforce housing, freight and logistics, and lawsuit abuse relief fell short this session.

Why are these issues vital for a New Georgia Economy? To start, 67% of Georgia small business owners and corporate CEOs report a lack of affordable workforce housing as the top issue affecting our ability to attract and maintain a competitive workforce. For Georgia to remain the best place to live, work, and raise a family, we must first ensure that our children can live in the communities where they are employed. Current regulatory fees, restrictive local zoning mandates, and skyrocketing interest rates are keeping nearly 1.4 million Georgia families from realizing the dream of home ownership. House Bill 514 and House Bill 517 aimed to cut through burdensome government regulations and streamline workforce housing standards. These bills would have created new methods for private, state, and local entities to work toward creating a housing environment that encourages the kind of development the market is demanding. Unfortunately, these bills failed to receive final passage and will be up for consideration during the 2024 session. We will continue to work closely with leaders around the state to address these growing issues in the midst of higher inflation.

Another priority for Georgia business is to develop long-term strategies to improve supply chain management. Projections show that by the year 2050, demand for freight flow in Georgia will increase by 92%. It is vital that we take measures now to prepare our infrastructure to meet that demand. Several opportunities to create technology and horizontal solutions must be a priority for 2024 and beyond. Without this innovation and investment, Georgia citizens will face growing delays and unsafe motorways.
Most disappointing was the failure to act to alleviate lawsuit abuse by passing common-sense civil justice reform. Georgia’s legal climate has consistently been ranked among the worst in the nation because of nuclear jury verdicts and a lack of simple reforms bringing the state in line with others across the country. That abuse has resulted in higher insurance rates and fewer doctors in our most disadvantaged communities. The Chamber will continue to work to pursue a more fair and balanced legal environment to provide much-needed relief to Georgia small business owners and families.

Finally, as we enter the interim period between legislative sessions, we will work around the clock with Governor Kemp’s office, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Department of Revenue, members of the general assembly, and other partners to review our state’s economic development and tax incentive policies. These tools have been critical in our ability to attract and retain record-breaking investments that have made us the buckle of the battery belt. Rural communities rely on these policies to level the playing field against unfavorable federal tax policy and a growing focus of other states to offer more lucrative incentives to attract expansions, new business, and to bolster small businesses. Our hope is to strengthen our policies to insulate Georgia from inflation and a global economic downturn. Georgia citizens have consistently said that opportunities for quality jobs are their top priority, and we are determined to remain the Best State to Do Business!

Prioritizing policies that support our business community benefits not only the companies who choose to operate here but the millions of people who call the Peach State home. We look forward to working alongside our elected officials to continue making Georgia the best place to live, work, pray, and play.

To learn more about priorities from the 2023 session, visit gachamber.com/legislative-priorities.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

When it comes to economic growth, Georgia keeps setting records. Last year alone, we saw a whopping $21.2 billion in investments and 51,132 newly created jobs as a result of 358 projects across the state. What’s more—85% of this investment and more than 30,000 jobs came from rural Georgia. Not surprisingly, Georgia was ranked the number one state in the nation in which to do business for an unprecedented 9th year in a row. However, even in the midst of this economic boom, employers across the state continue to experience challenges recruiting and retaining talent in their companies. One of the most pressing concerns for employees and potential recruits in every corner of the state is the lack of attainable and affordable housing options.

Historically, Georgia’s living and housing affordability has driven the state’s population growth. From 1980 to 2020, our state nearly doubled by adding 5.2 million new residents. By 2032, projections indicate Georgia’s population will rise even further to 11.9 million. But while our state has grown in terms of population, the number of new building permits has been steadily declining. This disparity deepens our need for increased housing stock with greater variety to meet increasing consumer demands.

Unfortunately, our state continues to face limited inventory and high prices. For every home for sale in Georgia, there are 65 active buyers—three times more than pre-pandemic levels. Increased costs of building materials and labor shortages have also contributed heavily to the rising costs of new home prices. Compounding these national trends is the reality that in Georgia, burdensome regulations covering the development and construction phases of homebuilding are mired in burdensome regulations that are currently on the books. To make matters worse, these regulations vary from city to city and county to county—creating a piecemeal patchwork which only further serves to drive up costs. These realities disproportionately discriminate against middle income earners, senior citizens, and first-time home buyers who are being priced out of the market every day. Even though home ownership is a proven method for growing wealth and elevating families out of poverty, the result has been that Georgia’s homeownership rate has decreased 7% over the past two decades.

Our state is at a true inflection point. Left unchecked, this problem will negatively impact rural economic development, limit existing industry expansions in our hub communities around the state, and limit relocations to our metro areas. It’s abundantly clear the status quo is not meeting consumer demand or providing enough housing to meet the economic development needs of the state.
Governor Kemp made increasing access to affordable workforce housing a highlight of his State of the State Address to kick off the 2023 legislative session, and included $35.7 million in his administration’s amended fiscal year 2023 budget for a Rural Workforce Housing Fund program—which was signed into law recently. This commitment from our state’s newly elected chief executive shows the importance—and the need—for change.

Additionally, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Study Committee on Regulation, Affordability, and Access to Housing, which met throughout 2022, gathered clear and convincing evidence that legislative action is needed to address the workforce housing crisis. It is essential that solutions to this pressing issue are enacted to invest in communities, create more jobs, and build better, more affordable housing solutions for hardworking Georgians.

Fortunately, legislation has been introduced this year that accomplishes that goal. HB 514 and HB 517 introduced by Representative Dale Washburn seek to cut government red tape, increase access to attainable workforce housing, and empower job creators to meet consumer demand. This vital legislation will focus on basic state standards of safety and quality to ensure a streamlined approach, better serving citizens across the state. Championing free-market, good-government housing reforms like these will allow job creators to do what they do best: innovate, invest in communities, and meet consumer demand – all while providing more places for Georgians to live at prices that allow for long term stability and economic mobility.

In a meaningful first step, HB 514 was passed by the House on a bipartisan vote—and we hope to see HB 517 receive similar consideration by lawmakers before the end of the legislative session.
The numbers and the results in the lives of everyday Georgians are clear: Georgia’s thoughtful, consistent leadership has created unprecedented economic growth. To continue building long-term prosperity for years to come, targeted, pro-growth solutions like HB 514 and HB 517 will allow our current employers to have quality housing for their new and existing workforces, while also supporting strong families and communities along the way.

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By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber

While most of the country has suffered significant GDP losses and an economic downturn, Georgia has experienced a solid top 10 economic growth in the first half of 2022. Around the state, corporate leaders and small businesses are worried about national inflation but remain optimistic and confident about Georgia’s own economic prospects.

That confidence is borne out of the facts coupled with the solid leadership of Governor Brian Kemp.

In 2018, Brian Kemp ran for Governor on a bold plan to spur economic growth, reform state government, strengthen rural communities, and protect Georgia families from violence—and that is exactly what he has done. Leading the nation by being the first Governor in the country to safely re-open the state during the COVID-19 pandemic helped jumpstart our economic recovery efforts. Under the Governor’s leadership, we have seen the largest tax cut in Georgia’s history; we are now experiencing the lowest ever unemployment rate with the most people ever in the workforce; we have landed the two largest economic development projects in state history, and since 2018, we have recruited over 1400 manufacturers, logistics, headquarters and agricultural businesses which will create 137,000 new jobs and invest nearly $50 billion into our economy.

Georgia’s film and entertainment industry has seen record growth coming out of the pandemic, with 366 productions spending $4.4 billion in the state in FY2021. Manufacturing employment is nearing a 20 year high and corporate headquarters continue to relocate to Georgia. The Peach State is a top destination for foreign direct investment and our agricultural exports are soaring.

Governor Kemp and the Georgia Ports Authority were innovative during last year’s supply chain crisis to lead the nation in the delivery of goods, food, and products. Because of that bold action, we’ve seen record growth in ports traffic in the last two years, with a 24% increase in 2020, 20% increase in 2021, and already an 18.5% increase in FY 2023.

Investment and future prosperity aren’t confined to the Atlanta region, which is booming as well. Over 77% of development investments have found homes in rural Georgia.

The state’s economy continues to stand above the rest evidenced by having recently been named the best state in which to do business for an unprecedented 9 years in a row by Area Development Magazine. More importantly, in the midst of the COVID recession, Georgia’s GDP grew by $51 billion. Today in our state there are between 300,000 and 400,000 open jobs, providing opportunities for every Georgian!

So how have we been able to rise above many of the economic challenges facing our nation? Simply put, Governor Kemp and other statewide leaders have made an unwavering commitment to protecting, promoting, and improving the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.

Companies are responding to a state focused on helping each citizen grow, find a high paying job and securing their own prosperity. Company leaders like our pro-business bipartisan approach, a general assembly that values balanced budgets and sound fiscal policy.

Businesses appreciate the Board of Regent’s focus on research, development, and student success. They see a technical college system that responds on a moment’s notice to the needs of the workforce, and a K-12 system focused on support for students and teachers all resonate with a business community hungry for talent.

Governor Kemp has collaborated with state leaders including Attorney General Chris Carr to prioritize a number of public safety initiatives aimed at keeping our communities and businesses safe. Enhanced resources for law enforcement to combat criminal gang activity, cybersecurity, organized retail theft, and human trafficking have also had a positive impact on the state from an economic perspective.

The Georgia Chamber is proud to work with these incredible public servants every day and look forward to 4 more years of economic prosperity and security!

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Georgia Chamber Remembers Former Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal
Legacy of educating Georgia’s children and charitable works endure

Atlanta, Georgia – August 24, 2022 – The Georgia Chamber of Commerce recognizes the passing of former Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal yesterday in Demorest, GA.

“Few women have left such an indelible mark on the State of Georgia as did former First Lady Sandra Deal,” said Georgia Chamber President & CEO Chris Clark. “Her unwavering commitment to educating the state's youth during her career and while she served as First Lady speaks to her character and Christian faith. The Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University will carry her work forward for generations to come. We join the many in praying for Governor Deal and their family as they mourn her loss and celebrate her life.”

 

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