Georgia 2030: The Chamber's GPS Device to Reach State's Business and Economic Future
Monday, May 16th, 2016
A hundred years ago, the then-newly formed Georgia Chamber of Commerce wisely initiated a road map with the intention of planning the future of business in the Peach State.
Today, one year into the second century of the Chamber, President and CEO, Chris Clark and the Chamber Board are instead utilizing modern GPS tracking and other digital tools to explore and research emerging commerce trends, needs and resources for Georgia’s future. This initiative is entitled “Georgia 2030.”
The first leg of journey began in 2015 with analyses of statistics, demographics and the economic needs of Georgia’s regions and communities from now to 2030.
Next, starting in Augusta last week, Clark and his team took to the open road and into the field to share that data and to listen to Georgia leaders for first-hand information. They began a series of interactive tours throughout the state where they will hold 22 listening sessions and town hall meetings. By mid-May, the 2030 tour will have visited Cartersville, Young Harris, Warner Robins, Valdosta and Thomasville, the entire tour will be completed by August.
They also partnered with the University of Georgia to conduct polling with voters statewide and are surveying over 60 associations and groups, such as local chambers, business leaders, policy makers and community influencers. One such session occurred last month when the Chamber partnered with technology companies throughout Georgia, such as Google, NCR and AT&T, as well as several startups. Clark and the Chamber team facilitated live surveys with the intention of exploring the needs of some of the state’s most technologically advanced leaders. The group identified specific sectors to promote that would provide opportunities, as well as expose challenges, such as attracting a qualified, talented workforce, finding additional incubator space, having access to financial capital, and the critical need for cyber security.
Another important partner to the Chamber and this initiative, is the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, who are creating a blueprint for education in Georgia and will also participate in the “Georgia 2030” statewide tours.
Stage #3 coming this fall, will consist of the compilation and analysis of the newly collected data, followed by a 2017 strategy implementation that will include working with local chambers on issues important for their respective regions of the state.
In addition to exploring obvious critical business matters such as an improved work force, transportation challenges, and economic trends, other germane issues will be included in the surveys, such as poverty, economic mobility, race, and rural economic development. “We believe this will make the Georgia Chamber more proactive and responsive for the next 100 years,” said Clark. “It will improve the partnerships we have with our local chambers, and it will give us a platform to take to those people who are running for office to say, here is what Georgians care about to improve their lives and their economic prospects.”
Clark added, “We’re listening to people and developing a dialog. I think so much of what’s happening in the general political atmosphere right now is very negative. It is trying to pull people apart. Quite frankly, the business community doesn’t care if an idea is Republican or Democrat. We care if it’s good for Georgia. We hopefully can be a catalyst to change the tenor of the discussion—at least in Georgia—to a future focus as to what makes common sense. Let’s see what we can work on together. I truly believe in the power of partnership.”
Each of the “Georgia 2030” events will include representatives from 4-6 county areas, such as elected officials, state representatives, nonprofit leaders as well as businessmen and women. The Georgia Chamber will share its data and use a live polling baseline survey to collect opinions and needs from the local communities. Breakout focus groups will delve into 3-4 main issues important to the local chambers, such as education, transportation infrastructure, military, travel and tourism. As part of the final process, all the collected data will be aggregated by regions and shared statewide.
Clark emphasized, “This is not going to be a one-time thing. If we’re going to be successful about keeping a future focus, the Chamber’s got to be about “Georgia 2030” until it becomes “Georgia 2040”, and “Georgia 2040” becomes 2050. If we’re going to do that, the future needs to become part of the DNA of the Chamber and that’s our goal.”