Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff “Bodine” Sinyard, Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker discuss the state’s business climate at an informational Power Lunch hosted by the Georgia Chamber Tuesday at Albany Tech. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
Georgia Chamber of Commerce Power Lunch
Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark addresses Albany area business and civic leaders at a Power Lunch held Tuesday at Albany Technical College.
ALBANY — At a Georgia Chamber of Commerce Power Lunch Tuesday at Albany Technical College (ATC), Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark said that thanks to recent activity during the Georgia legislative session and the forthcoming deepening of the port in Savannah, Georgia remains one of the best states in which to do business.
Citing recent rankings from Site Selection Magazine recognizing Georgia as the top place in the country in which to do business and the most competitive state in terms of economic development, Clark said the state is poised for positive growth in the coming years.
Mobile users click here for video.
“Since 2011 if you look at what’s happened in Georgia, we’re starting to come out of this recession, we’re starting to see a rebound,” said Clark.
“Back in November a lot of our legislators and I stood on the stage with Gov. Deal who just announced that Georgia had been named the best place to do business in the country and two months ago we were named the most competitive state in the country. And so we’re beating out those others states and creating new jobs.”
Clark pointed to Georgia’s technical colleges, universities and infrastructure as being critical to successful business growth, but also said the overall business-friendly climate had a lot to do with Georgia being a leader in economic development.
“Since 2011 we’ve announced almost 1,700 new corporate locations or expansions in Georgia,” said Clark. “Those aren’t retail and those aren’t spin-off businesses. Those are companies that have made a decision to grow their company, add jobs, and add investment in Georgia. They ripple out. It means 90,000 new jobs for Georgians; it means almost $20 million of new investment in the state of Georgia just in the last three years.”
Clark said he believes the state will continue that success because members of the state legislators and federal officials representing Georgia continue to work together, both in the General Assembly session and behind the scenes, to make sure things are in place to make the state attractive to companies looking to locate in Georgia and, just as importantly, companies wanting to remain in Georgia.
According to Clark this year’s legislative session was pro business with the Georgia Chamber supporting 44 bills and opposing 29.
“At the end we were able to come out of this session, look at the numbers and say it was business friendly; it was good for business; we did some things that made Georgia better,” said Clark. “What we’ve seen is a governor and a general assembly, Republican and Democrat, that have been working together to have good policies in place that have helped lead us.”
Clark said the largest area of impact coming from the legislative session came in policies directed at helping certain industry sectors and improving education.
To illustrate his point Clark gave an example of how legislators handled a state tax credit issue that threatened to hurt the state’s growth in the aviation industry, which would have a significant impact on one of Albany’s larger industries, Thrush Aircraft.
“Georgia was the only state that had a sunset on the tax credit that the aviation companies relied on to get business,” Clark explained. “With Thrush and Gulfstream and Cessna and other companies, (Georgia is) the seventh fastest growing aviation sector in the country. But we started to slow it down because we had this artificial sunset on this tax credit. The general assembly heard that, realized it, went in and took that sunset off and now those companies know that tax credit’s there. They can get those customers and they can continue to grow.”
Clark also said the legislature worked to support energy and alternative fuel tax credits for companies looking to convert from oil and gas to natural gas and to support the Renaissance Act to support small, downtown businesses throughout the state.
Clark also praised state leaders for budget decisions made that will benefit education and improve critical parts of the state’s infrastructure for future growth.
Clark pointed to budget changes removing teacher furlough days and providing teacher raises for the first time in seven years, improved technology for rural schools and better access to state funds for technical college tuition.
“It was also a good budget year this year for business,” said Clark. “They prioritized and said education was a top priority. I can’t think of anything more important to invest in than education. This year the General Assembly, in a bi-partisan fashion, made it a priority in the budget.”
Perhaps the thing that will have the biggest impact on the future economic growth of the state, Clark said, were moves on the state and national level to ensure the progress of the deepening of the Port of Savannah.
“They also did something that was critically important for the long-term economic growth of the state of Georgia,” said Clark. “They funded the remaining portion of the state side of deepening the Port of Savannah. The General Assembly did their part. They said, ‘here’s the money. We’re going to have our dollars ready to go so we can make sure that port’s deepened.’
“We also needed the permits and the federal dollars,” Clark continued. “Members of the General Assembly all worked together to make sure that Congress passed the Water Re-development Act, the water act that gave us the permits for deepening the harbor and authorized the federal funding to deepen the port of Savannah and the president signed it. So again, a bi-partisan effort in Washington, a bi-partisan effort in Georgia, and now, all those pieces together, they’re going to start moving mud.”