Georgia is experiencing record-setting growth, evidenced by a recent announcement that job creation and investments from economic development projects through the third quarter of fiscal year 2022 have already surpassed fiscal year 2021 year-end totals. One asset for Georgia-based businesses—from independent family-owned outfits to huge corporations—is access to the advocacy and network of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. With more than 47,000 member companies around the state, it is focused on keeping, growing, and creating jobs. Here, Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark shares some of the state’s keys to success and strategies for the future.
Georgia is known for having a welcoming business community. What do you think are the key components?
I believe it’s twofold. First, the Georgia Chamber has partnered with state officials for 110 years to build a great business climate. Governor Kemp, Speaker Ralston, and the General Assembly have shown through Covid-19 that we can keep businesses healthy, open, and successful. Combine that attitude with great infrastructure, superior workforce programs, and a competitive tax climate, and you have a welcoming state. Also, Georgia companies have a long history of giving back to the community, investing in worthy causes, and standing up for the general benefit of the state.
What key issues should Georgia companies hone in on to stay competitive?
Overwhelmingly Georgia businesses are focused on three critical areas. First is winning the war for talent and building a world-class 21st-century workforce. That includes addressing issues from upskilling to work-based learning to long-term recruitment and retention. Second, we’re focused on building an infrastructure system for the future. That means more investment in freight and logistics, building out high-speed broadband, supporting our healthcare institutions, and ensuring long-term diverse energy supplies and transmission. Finally, we’re working with Georgia companies to build a more inclusive and innovative economy. Helping minority small businesses, attracting more research and development, passing more technology friendly policies, and supporting our university and education system will help facilitate a more prosperous economy.
How is Georgia primed to compete for new businesses?
Companies around the world are actively looking for talent and sites in Georgia because of our superior infrastructure, ports, airports, and railroads and because of our reputation for workforce development. Corporate expansions depend more and more on the ability to attract critical-skill employees, and University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue and our university system are laser-focused on those needs. Technical College Commissioner Greg Dozier is a critical partner, and every major location in Georgia enjoys a unique partnership with Georgia Quickstart. Add to these the bipartisan approach to job creation and pro-business legislation, and I think you have a formula for long-term economic growth and prosperity.
Why is the Chamber focused on rural initiatives? Can you share some examples of recent wins?
Governor Kemp recently noted that 74 percent of our record-breaking economic development projects for the last few years have been located in rural Georgia. That’s a tremendous achievement. Under the leadership of Rural Committee Chair Barbara Hampton (CEO of Georgia Transmission Corporation), the Georgia Chamber has supported the work of Speaker Ralston for the last six years as the Georgia General Assembly focused on policies and investments to help grow rural Georgia. We’re seeing revitalized downtowns, a soaring demand for small-town housing, and a generation considering moving to rural communities. Our focus is to support those rural companies and communities by addressing workforce, infrastructure, innovation, and inclusion needs. We host regional meetings and the annual American Rural Prosperity Summit to facilitate that work.
What are the new or emerging industries to watch in the next 10 years?
Georgia will continue to be an ever-evolving and dynamic economy for decades to come. We’ll see traditional industry sectors like fin-tech, bio, and manufacturing all grow and chart exciting new paths that we can’t imagine today. We will also see Georgia become a critical hub of e-mobility serving everything from innovation and research to battery and automobile manufacturing. I’m also excited to see what our growing start-up scene invents. I think we’ll see entire new industries emerge from our incubators and maker spaces.