The leader of Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce shared his recipe for adding jobs and growing the state economy Tuesday.
Touting the Georgia2Georgia campaign, Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark asked about 130 community and business leaders in the audience at Augusta Technical College to look at companies within state borders to meet their business needs. Just 2 percent more business conducted within the state, he said, could have powerful implications.
“If we have our manufacturers in Georgia do 2 percent more business this year, that’s three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars staying in our economy,” said Clark, speaking at the Georgia Chamber’s Regional Power Lunch. “If you hire 2 percent more accountants or lawyers or service industry support folks in Georgia, that’s half-a-billion dollars of economic impact in Georgia.”
The Georgia Chamber held several Regional Power Lunches across Georgia this summer, and Augusta was the last stop on the tour. Clark discussed key business legislation that the chamber worked to pass in the state’s 2014 General Assembly session and other initiatives his team would embark on the rest of the year.
Clark cited new legislation as examples of how policy decisions could improve the state’s business climate, including bills that make a sales tax exemption permanent for aviation repair and maintenance and modify and streamline broadband infrastructure.
Clark applauded the use of state and federal funds put toward deepening the Savannah Port and Georgia legislators’ decision to add state money for education and increasing technology in schools.
“The No. 1 most important issue for businesses in the state is having a qualified 21st century workforce,” he said. “We’re graduating students that are not ready for college. They’re not ready for a career, so what are they ready for?”
Clark said he sees several indicators showing that Georgia’s economy is moving upward. Since 2011, more than 1,700 corporate announcements and relocations have been announced in the state, bringing more than 90,000 jobs and $20 billion in new investment, he said.
Clark said the Georgia Chamber will back legislation that supports more funding for state transportation projects and adequate health care coverage.
“If you don’t have access to health care in your community, your businesses there won’t grow,” said Clark, mentioning four hospitals that have closed across Georgia in recent years. “You won’t attract an industry. You won’t attract a distribution center. Your community won’t grow, and you won’t keep the companies that are there.”