Chris Hardy is the CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. (Outlook 2013)
The Chamber of Commerce believes 2013 will be filled with great excitement and anticipation both within our own organization and within the business community.
First and foremost the items that are part of our 2013 Legislative Agenda will be primary focal points and will provide numerous opportunities to advocate for the betterment of Albany, Dougherty County and Southwest Georgia.
One of our major priorities is representing the best interests of our business community in regards to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. Many of us by now know that all military installations in Georgia are facing drastic changes with sequestering looming over us and scheduled to take effect beginning March 1. Those budget cuts could drastically affect the economic impact that the base provides. That effect would be felt well outside Dougherty County, throughout our MSA and beyond.
We must ensure MCLB Albany remains a viable economic force in our community. Current economic impact estimates from MCLB Albany range from $750 million to in excess of $1 billion for our region. Though MCLB Albany remains a priority, we do have other issues that we must address in 2013.
Another item that was included in the 2013 Legislative Agenda is advocating for the Albany State University Language, Performing and Visual Arts Center which would provide specialized-needs and additional classrooms, teaching labs, a lecture and performance hall, computer labs, offices, art studios, music practice rooms and studio space for radio and television broadcasting.
The estimated economic impact to the region for this project is $58 million. Though the Chamber of Commerce understands funds are limited, we must continue to lobby for this effort and keep open communication lines to our delegation regarding its importance.
Furthermore, we must continue to advocate on behalf of agri-business and lobby for the restoration of dedicated funding for rural economic development and agribusiness in Southwest Georgia, and urge the growing and attracting of rural business as an economic development priority for the state and our region.
Another important component that we must address this year is advocating for the support and development of a uniform and unambiguous hotel/motel tax code to ensure appropriate funding of tourism promotion in Southwest Georgia, and oppose any decrease in statewide marketing funds to support Georgia’s tourism industry, the eighth largest tourism economy in the United States.
One final item on our legislative agenda this year is an issue that has been facing businesses of all sizes for nearly two years and that is a government run insurance plan. The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce supports maintaining employer’s flexibility in determining how to best meet the benefits needs of their employees and retirees and oppose the creation of any new government run insurance plan or exchange that may result in the shifting of additional health care costs to employers. This particular legislation will continue to force employers to delay new job creation due to uncertainty of costs relating to providing adequate health care for each employee.
In addition to items that appear on our 2013 legislative agenda, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce will place a tremendous amount of resources in providing additional member services in order to meet the growing needs of our membership and the business community. Our membership is our driving force and we must place a greater focus on growth and retention. We have made many changes though more are to come and we will do all of this with one thing in mind, our members.
Chris Hardy is CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.