Georgia ranks ninth in the nation in “America’s top states for business,” according to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and officials said they are working on moving up the ladder.
On Thursday, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce welcomed Chris Clark, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, as the guest speaker for its monthly board of directors meeting.
Clark’s message: Economic growth and stability happens on three levels — all of which are rooted in local economies and chambers.
“First of all, I think that Hall County is really an example for a lot of other communities to follow,” said Clark, adding the partnerships between business, government and economic leaders are strong.
“What we want to do is help those other communities out there partner and understand what they can do. “
The state’s chamber head said his organization is working to improve Georgia’s economic landscape in three key areas: economic development, advocacy and policy development.
Economic development, he said, starts with the state’s infrastructure, including deepening the Port of Savannah and building two nuclear power plants.
He also said keeping the military and its bases afloat in Georgia is a big push for the chamber.
The advocacy, Clark continued, is essential to attracting new business, while growing the existing industry. Rallying state lawmakers, especially at the local level, has, and can continue to, improve Georgia’s business appeal, he said.
“It’s also incredibly important for our local chambers to be involved in advocacy and these issues,” said Clark.
“At the end of the day, our local chambers are on the ground. They’re one-on-one with their legislators, they’re one-on-one with their local businesses, and a legislator would much rather hear a phone call from a local businessman than from me.”
He said the state chamber is also working on ways to mold its policies to help make that information pipeline from the local chambers to the Gold Dome more seamless.
“When we can have a partnership where local chambers are helping to define the agenda on where we go,” said Clark, “then when these issues come up that the legislators have to deal with every single year, then we’ll be there educated and know what to say, and that will strengthen us.”
Kit Dunlap, president of the Hall Chamber, said the local chamber has constant communication with not only the state, but the region’s, chambers as well.
It’s that communication, she said, that makes the Northeast Georgia area economically strong.
“Chris Clark, in his prior life, he was a president of a local chamber, so he certainly understands the connection to start on a local level, then get connected in the region, then the state to make things happen for business,” said Dunlap. “So, I think that’s very important for us to be connected to the Georgia and our other chambers in the region to be a voice for business.”
Clark’s visit was a part of a series of luncheons the state chamber is attending throughout Georgia. A grass-roots movement, he said, can’t happen behind a desk.
“We’ve got to build that up and that’s why we’re working so closely with our local chambers,” he said. “We can’t sit in Atlanta and figure out what’s wrong.”