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Georgia Chamber of Commerce maps out action plan through 2030
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Marisa Simpson, director of regional community relations and economic development at AGL Resources, listens in as Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark delivers his speech Tuesday morning at the Chattahoochee Country Club during the Georgia Chamber interactive breakfast meeting.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is mapping a plan of action for the next 14 years, and it came to Gainesville on Tuesday to solicit ideas. It plans to contact 7,500 to 10,000 Georgians as part of Georgia 2030.

The Gainesville breakfast was the 24th meeting around the state held by the chamber. It was at Chattahoochee Country Club and attracted 80 to 90 people.

Chris Clark, president of the Georgia chamber, presented a “snapshot” of demographic projections for the state and for Northeast Georgia, and he asked the audience members to answer a string of questions about business, social and political issues. Participants used their cellphones to respond to the questions, and the results were displayed on a screen at the front — moving back and forth in percentages as people responded.

The meetings starting early in May, and the final one is set for Macon in late August. Clark said the University of Georgia also has conducted one phone survey and will do one more as part of the process.

The chamber expects to make the results of the surveys and meetings public in January, Clark said. He said the chamber board believes it “can keep people focused” in the state on the issues for the next 14 years.

Introducing the process, Clark said the state chamber celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015. He said the chamber had another “visioning” process in 1916.

Some of the goals then were quickly met, he said, such as establishing the Georgia Department of Transportation to focus on building and paving roads.

Other goals took longer, he said, more than a little tongue in cheek. One goal was to become a major source of moviemaking. “That was 1916, you all,” Clark said.

He noted the moviemaking success “took a while.” Now, Georgia has a $9 billion industry in movies, he said.

The chamber board decided “let’s do it again. Let’s go out around the state and ask people for their ideas,” Clark said.

He first provided some demographic information to demonstrate “how Georgia’s going to change” by 2030.

The percentage of senior citizens in the state is expected to increase by more than 50 percent, and millennials will increase by about 20 percent, he said.

In the Northeast Georgia region, the eastern half of the state and north of Hall and Forsyth counties, he said the population is expected to increase by 153,000.

About 100,000 of that is expected in Forsyth County and another 37,000 in Hall County.

Clark said the time frame for the changes is 14 years — “right around the corner.”

“The magic group,” Clark said, is millennials, which is projected to increase about 28 percent. “That’s the workforce,” he said.

But that increase is “not nearly what you’re going to need,” Clark warned.

He said the area will need about 40,000 more jobs by 2030 to maintain the current economy — a number he called “doable.”

However, he also said the region will have about 65,000 retirees in nine years.

“That’s a huge number for this region. That’s a game-changer,” he said.

The survey questions were about:

• Quality of life issues

• What skills businesses need in workers

• What helps with poverty

• Whether trade is good or bad

• How easy or hard it is to create new businesses in Georgia

• How participants see themselves politically from very liberal to very conservative

The final question asked participants to type in words for subjects they view as most important in the future.

The major topics were education, workforce and development, but a host of others were included — taxes, infrastructure, diversity, regulation, maybe as many as 20 subjects.

“Everywhere we’ve been education has been the dominant one,” Clark said. “You guys have been much more balanced.”

Clark told the group the basics of economic development have changed.

“Whoever has the talent will win,” he said. “When most of us were starting out, we moved wherever the work was.” That no longer is the case, he said.

Clark said the Atlanta chamber is spending $20 million to recruit millennials to the area.

The key now for job development, he said, is “to be attractive to the next generation of workers.”

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