As 2021 unfolds, the Georgia Chamber remains true to its purpose of supporting job creation, economic mobility, growth, equality and free enterprise statewide. Most importantly, we continue to listen to Georgia businesses as we focus on recovery and resiliency for a reimagined new Georgia economy.
During the onset of a global pandemic, last summer’s protests, political campaigns and the recent horrific events following the election, we have been listening intently and business leaders have been very clear that they condemn violence while still upholding the right of free speech. They are heartbroken at the death and destruction that COVID-19 has caused while doing their part to fight the pandemic.
They are deeply concerned that so many small businesses continue to struggle in the recession but are working to lift up those in need. They are exhausted by the negative tone of our current political culture but stand ready to engage. They are pained by the divisiveness that has become so prevalent and are committed to standing up to injustice and inequality. The business community clearly believes that we must listen to each other and, most importantly, seek to understand what divides us in order to heal so that we can reimagine a new economy as one united community.
In response to what we have heard, the Georgia Chamber will do its part, as we have for more than a century. We will convene, facilitate, educate, research, study and, above all, spend this next year continuing to listen and bring Georgians together. Our Resiliency and Recovery Task Force is focused on driving a new post-COVID-19 economy, more resilient than our previous one, and something that Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker David Ralston have all made a priority.
To that end, we will focus on five key areas: advocating for a flexible and competitive tax policy to help new job recruitment, retention of existing industry and small-business growth; upskilling our work force to help Georgians get back to work and to help our students prepare for a very different economy; creating an infrastructure of the future that includes supporting Gov. Kemp’s broadband initiative as well as the legislature’s plan to enhance our statewide network for freight and logistics; instilling a cyber safe harbor to protect Georgia businesses from the rise of cyberattacks, and building rural resiliency to focus on jump-starting the recovery in those areas of the state. In addition, we will seek to reauthorize COVID-19 liability protections for our health care providers and businesses alike.
At the same time, we have launched an aggressive federal agenda working with our congressional delegation and the new administration. The chamber will provide updates on COVID-19 legislation, SBA support and vaccine distribution through our Resource Center online at www.gachamber.com/covid19. In addition, we will host virtual roundtables with industry experts and share those recordings on YouTube and podcast platforms.
After session, we will use virtual and in-person meetings around Georgia to listen closely to the needs of elected leaders, members, influencers and local chambers. We will take that information to build a vision for the next decade of economic prosperity. But we need you and all fellow Georgians to take the time and look into the future through engaging in surveys, polls and questionnaires that will be used in statewide town halls and focus groups.
To complement these regional listening sessions, the chamber will host a one-day Rural Forum in Tifton; deliver a virtual Washington, D.C., fly-in during the spring; build out a Future of Georgia Forum in partnership with both the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association; and grow our American Rural Prosperity Summit, presented by Georgia Power, into a national event held in Athens this October.
Our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and Summit will remain diligent in addressing systemic racial inequality and in identifying opportunities for a more equitable and inclusive future. Our presence in the state will expand to include a second regional office in Brunswick, in partnership with Ralph Staffins and the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber. And our commitment to providing tangible small-business benefits will build with the introduction of the Chamber’s 401(k) Retirement Plan Exchange. As you can tell, there is much to be done in 2021.
In the end, the Georgia Chamber’s mission never waivers. We will continue to advocate, inform, educate and foster the nation’s No. 1 business climate so that all Georgians can flourish. Together, we will move forward into a reimagined new Georgia economy.