Atlanta chamber event has lessons for locals

Published 8:57 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

By Jennifer Shrader


ATLANTA – While a program sponsored by the Georgia and U.S. Chambers of Commerce on Monday appeared to focus on more metropolitan issues, local leaders say there still were messages to take from it.


“I appreciate the U.S. Chamber and the Georgia Chamber giving us the opportunity to attend the Let’s Grow Tour program,” said Page Estes, president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. “While the program centered upon Atlanta and ‘big city’ issues, everything that was discussed applies to our community as well. I especially liked Mayor (Kasim) Reed and Governor (Nathan) Deal noting that solutions are found in partnerships — not partisanship.”


The program at the Delta Museum called “Let’s Grow” focused on economic growth, with panel discussions on competitiveness around Georgia, bi-partisan partnership and an update on health care.


Reed and Deal spoke on bipartisan cooperation, particularly as it related to the construction of the port of Savannah.


“The only way to get the port done was through bipartisanship,” Reed said. Georgia is now “ahead of everyone” on the East Coast as far as a port goes and other states are wanting to do the same thing, Deal said.


Deal, who served in Congress before becoming governor, blames ethics rules that keep those at the Capitol from socializing for the extreme bi-partisanship. Members of the House and Senate used to be able to gather together informally and now can’t even get a burger together, he said.


“If you’re not doing that, the only way left is to find a way to squabble,” he said.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue gave the keynote address and outlined challenges the state – and nation – faces to reach economic prosperity.


However, he had praise for Georgia.


“This is a place that really gets it right,” he said. “It’s one of the most economically aggressive areas in the country.”


Still, the country itself isn’t growing fast enough to reemploy the workforce or employ young people first coming in to the job market, take care of an aging population or make up funding shortfalls.


Donohue urged the chamber members to lobby for tax and regulatory reforms that encourage businesses to make new investments, as well as changes to the legal system he admitted the U.S. Chamber has been working on for 20 years.


“Growth is our biggest problem, but it’s our biggest opportunity,” he said.


Estes said local businesses are having the same conversations mentioned Monday in Atlanta.

“The conversations we’re having in Troup County about workforce development and innovative technologies are the same happening in larger communities across the country,” she said. “After today, I’m even more motivated for our community to find solutions to these challenges and create more opportunities.  A community is going to — why not us?”