Chris Clark Discusses The Georgia Chamber's 2015 Initiatives, 100th Anniversary
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce continued its efforts in 2014 to ensure the port deepening project in Savannah comes to fruition (read more about the Georgia Ports Authority 2015 Outlook), to improve education and to enhance the overall business climate throughout the state. In addition, it participated in the process of getting pro-business candidates in office at the state level during each stage of the election cycle. “You can talk about ideas and policies all day, but if the right people – those who understand what it takes to grow Georgia’s economy – aren’t elected to office, you can’t get anything done,” says Chris Clark, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Like his predecessors over the past century, he believes in the Chamber’s responsibility for being the voice for the body of Georgia businesses.
2014 was the inaugural year for Georgia2Georgia, one of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s premier programs. The campaign kicked off in January and added a new on-line directory to its website, www.Georgia2Georgia.com, over the summer. The tool affords participating companies a place to promote services, make special offers and connect with other businesses that call Georgia home. Tapping into business leaders’ sense of state pride, the initiative promotes the practice of Georgia businesses buying from, selling to and serving each other. “We’ve built some great momentum,” says Clark of the 2014 roll-out. “This year we’re adding more networking opportunities and events to spotlight the great products we make and services we offer across the state of Georgia.”
Driving into 2015 on the energy of Georgia2Georgia and its power to introduce new partnerships, foster corporate responsibility, create jobs and build businesses, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce begins its 100th year focused on maintaining the state’s global competitiveness and growing its economy. “It’s been a very successful 100 years, not just for us, but for the business community in Georgia,” Clark says. “This year will be a celebration of what positive business leadership and productive partnerships can accomplish.” To kick off the year-long celebration, the Chamber unveiled the 100th year logo at the Eggs and Issues breakfast on January 13 in Atlanta.
The Chamber will use multiple channels to recount its history and successes that have resulted from strong leadership, committed members and investors, and effective advocacy at the state and federal levels. “We will be telling the story of business around Georgia,” says Clark, “and highlighting the engines of job development and economic growth over the past 100 years.”
Other events will commemorate the 100th year, as well. A reception in Macon, where the Chamber was incorporated, will be held this summer. The Chamber also plans to celebrate in Savannah, a city that has long played a role in the Chamber’s history.
With a nod to its beginnings, Clark appreciates how far the Chamber has come. Instead of tracking a handful of issues during each legislative session, it now focuses on upwards of 300 every year. The original staff of two people has expanded to 40 people today. At its inception, there were about 24 members. The Georgia Chamber currently boasts approximately 27,000 members and investors. “What we do hasn’t changed,” says Clark. “We have just grown stronger and more dynamic now.”
Clark says, “We work hard to be a good resource for our local chambers. We’ve stayed true to our mission. What’s been great to me is to see the consistency of what we’ve done. We’ve never lost our focus on those things most important to the businesses of our state.” Commitment to shaping and supporting Georgia’s economic growth is evidenced by the Chamber’s 2015 agenda. In addition to bolstering the Georgia2Georgia program, the Chamber will capitalize on its experience during the 2014 election cycle by establishing a Political Affairs Committee; thus, support for pro-business public servants will be a year-round focus, not just an election year priority.
Furthermore, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce will partner with the University of Georgia Fanning Institute for Leadership to launch a unique statewide leadership training program called Georgia Leads. Clark explains, “We want to make sure that every community in our state has the leadership it needs to be successful.” Training will be skills-based, as opposed to the typical issues-based curriculum offered, and it will be customized according to an assessment of a community’s strengths and weaknesses.
As it closes one century on a high note and enters the next, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce remains mindful of its purpose – to support a thriving trade of goods and services in the state. It will continue to monitor and influence policies at the state and national levels and offer solutions to positively impact Georgia’s economic growth. It will continue to advocate for education that develops a strong workforce. It will continue to offer information and opportunities for business leaders to stay apprised of how policies, like the recent executive action on immigration, affect their business and offer strategies to adapt. It will continue to tackle issues, such as effective methods for maintaining economically viable healthcare in rural locations. In sum, it will continue to be the singular voice speaking for businesses and business leaders in Georgia.