Columbia Co. lawmakers talk jobs, economy, TSPLOST before 2012 session

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
Columbia County Chamber of Commerce luncheon

Growing business and staying competitive with nearby states was a hot topic at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 10, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- It was a packed house Thursday for the annual pre-legislative breakfast put on by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

The breakfast is a chance for government and business leaders to get a preview of the upcoming 2012 session.

"We got a view of what we need to do in our local level to be a part of the bigger picture of what's going on in our state," said Rick Evans, a partner for Serotta, Maddocks, Evans and Co.

The economy, budget issues and tax reform will continue to dominate the capital.

"Budget, budget, budget, budget. Our schools and our teachers, our roads and our law enforcement officers, our judicial system is at a time like no other," Sen. Bill Jackson told the crowd.

"Budget issues are one of the crucial issues that this delegation will have to face this year," Evans said.

With Georgia's Commissioner of Economic Development on hand, growing business and staying competitive with nearby states was also a hot topic.

"He had a lot of positive things to say about what Georgia has going on ... the fact that we're at the top of our game but there are others that are getting closer," explained Evans.

"I promise you that a year a half from now ... we're going to beat South Carolina a lot more than we are now," stated Chris Cummiskey, the Commissioner for Department of Economic Development.

While attracting new business to the state is important, Commissioner Cummiskey says growth begins at home.

"If we don't help our existing industries grow ... they're going to leave the state, most likely. If we keep our existing industry here, they're our best best selling point to bring new business to Georgia," explained Cummiskey.

Several lawmakers took the chance to promote the TSPLOST. They say it will create jobs and infrastructure needed to move the state forward.

"When this economy turns, and it will turn eventually, we're going to have to have that in place," said Ga. Rep. Ben Harbin.

"We're the logistical hub of the Southeast, make no mistake about it, our Georgia ports and our airport make us the hub of the Southeast and it's the economic engines that drive this state and every single part it," Cummiskey said. "I will tell you this, a vote for the TSPLOST is a vote for job growth, simple as that."

Of course, next year is also an election year and there a few of races that could shake things up. There was some talk from the lawmakers that election years mean things slow down at the capital in terms of getting things done.

Other topics included Georgia's efforts to grow the international tourism and film industries. Thanks to incentives, the industry has grown from $234 million in 2007 to $204 billion last year. The Augusta-metro area may not be seeing a ton of that money, but the state says it is helping the economy.

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