Georgia Chamber “Eggs & Issues” - Education, Transportation Initiatives Key to Georgia Maintaining Competitive Edge, Top Business Ranking
Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
The state’s top three executives--Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston--stayed on message and virtually read from the same page at the annual Georgia Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues Breakfast” held yesterday at the Georgia World Congress Center. Governor Deal proudly extolled Georgia for recently being named the No. 1 state to do business by three different ranking groups. He then thanked and exhorted the audience to retain its strong competitive edge, especially in the areas of education and transportation.
An attendance of nearly 2,000 executives, business owners, elected officials and Chamber of Commerce members celebrated the organization’s 100th anniversary while warmly welcoming the pro-business remarks of the state’s leadership. Ernest Greer, 2014 Chair and Vice-President and Managing Shareholder of Greenberg Traurig LLP, welcomed the crowd, touting the success of the “Georgia2Georgia” campaign and citing the need to create opportunities for all voices of Georgians.
Governor Deal cautioned the attendees not to rest on past laurels and to stand with him on twin key agenda items: transportation infrastructure improvement and education reform. Both are strongly required in order to land more jobs and new investments. He added, “What this business community does over the next four years, and perhaps, more importantly, what it doesn’t do, will echo throughout our state for decades to come.”
While details of these top priorities will be unveiled in his State of the State speech to the Georgia Legislature on January 14, the Governor spoke briefly of the necessity of improving the state’s transportation network. In addition, he highlighted his educational plans, in general. Since the jobs of the future will require a higher educated workforce, his educational initiative features opportunities for students in 10th grade to take computer programming courses at the college level, allowing such classes to substitute for math, language or science prerequisites. Furthermore, the state will offer enticements to companies that expand their apprenticeship programs, as well as for citizens who wish to return to college in order to complete their degree.
Governor Deal also announced two other major proposed organizational ideas. He recommends renaming the state’s technical college system to become the Georgia Career College System in order to encourage enrollments. Since Georgia’s motion pictures business has grown into a $5.1 billion industry and has succeeded in becoming the third-ranked U.S. state in film production and fifth in the world, he plans to establish a Georgia Film Academy to complement tuition incentives in that arena. The Academy will be a partnership between the state’s university and technical college systems.
Lt. Governor Cagle likewise echoed Governor Deal’s remarks regarding the urgent need for funding infrastructure enhancements. “Infrastructure is the backbone of our state’s economy,” said Cagle. He put a face on the problem, calling it time to relieve people’s commutes in order spend more time at home with their families. Similarly, Georgia has an enviable position as a transportation hub, centered around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the growing importance of the port of Savannah and being home to leading company headquarters. Therefore, the urgent need exists also for transportation improvements in order to expedite the transfer of goods. In his words, “Doing nothing is not an option.”
He added that the decisions we make today about education will determine the types of jobs for our graduates, which will effect the state’s economy of tomorrow. Cagle emphasized that Georgia’s educational initiatives must ensure that all Georgians have access to a good education. He championed bi-partisan support for Senate Bill #2, which would legislate Governor Deal’s plan to offer 10th grade students the opportunity to take college level classes in order to be able to get a head start toward a degree or certification.
House Speaker Ralston used the same words as Cagle (“Doing nothing is not an option’) with regard to transportation challenges. The safety of Georgia’s citizens and our transportation system cannot put at risk. The state wants businesses in order to create good jobs and improved quality of life for its citizenry. “In the 21st century Transportation continues to be driving force behind Georgia’s remarkable story,” said Ralston. A strong transportation network continues to be the key to the future, reiterated Ralston. He asked for cooperation among legislators on this important issue.
Earlier in the program, Senator Johnny Isakson addressed the audience in a video message. He commented that the U.S. Senate will imminently take up the Keystone Pipeline project, which can create 42,000 jobs. Corporate tax reform is another major priority, as is the addition of stronger sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. He also welcomed Senator David Perdue as his state colleague in the Senate.
Paul Bowers, 2015 Chair and Chairman, and President and CEO of Georgia Power, delivered opening remarks encouraging business and state leaders to be “passionate” and to focus stridently on the future of the “Georgia” brand.
Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Chris Clark, closed the meeting by thanking Governor Deal and the other speakers and also thanked the membership for their work. “We still have a lot to do,” he said. “Let’s go do it.”
In lieu of their annual party on the evening prior to the Breakfast, Clark announced that the Chamber will celebrate throughout the year with a fall reception in Savannah and another one this summer in Macon. On April 25 Atlanta will be the site of a black tie dinner. Members will be notified of details.
Click here for a full list of the 2015 Georgia Chamber Federal Priorities.
Click here for today's announcement of the Georgia Chamber's 2015 Chair and Leadership.