Now that we’ve reached the end of what has been one of the longest sessions in Georgia’s history, it’s time to move forward on new policies that will change the face of our state economy. Job creation is at the center of this transformation.
At the beginning of session, I noted that while the legislature’s greatest challenge would be balancing the budget, our most important goal was to revitalize Georgia’s job sector. I’m proud to say that job growth remained our primary focus throughout session, with both chambers passing legislation to encourage an economic climate that is conducive to job creation.
Earlier in the session, the legislature voted in favor of giving Georgia’s job sector a true shot in the arm with the Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success Act of 2010 (JOBS Act of 2010 or House Bill 1023).
A key provision to this bill is the creation of an “angel investor” tax credit, which will reward those who invest in Georgia start-up companies that create jobs.
Employers will also receive credit against the unemployment tax if they hire someone currently receiving unemployment benefits. Coupling this bill with many of the other economic development measures we passed will truly position Georgia to lead the nation in economic recovery.
Those initiatives include the creation of the Legislative Economic Development Council under Senate Bill 374. The council will oversee the state’s overall economic development strategy and ensure that funds, policies, programs and regulation are aligned to maximize job creation and business growth.
Currently, economic development initiatives are scattered throughout the budget and across state agencies.
An ongoing review of state rules, regulations and red tape will help make Georgia the top destination for growing businesses.
A strategic economic development plan will generate new opportunities for our state.
Combine this with a $189 million bond package to deepen the Savannah harbor, a key component to Georgia’s economy.
At the start of session, the Senate Economic Development Committee heard a presentation from Dr. Michael Toma, professor of economics at Atlantic Armstrong State University in Savannah, who highlighted the importance of deepening Savannah’s ports to maintain Georgia’s competitive edge and create jobs throughout the state. He noted that Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support over 280,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute nearly $15 billion in income.
He also emphasized the importance of deepening the harbor to allow larger shipments into the ports to expand Georgia’s commerce. With the funding available in the budget for the deepening project, our ports will continue to support our economy.
We’ve also included $3.5 million for the Regional Economic Business Assistance Program to help “close the deal” when companies are considering Georgia for their location or expansion.
In that same vein, we’ve focused closely on policies that enhance the state’s appeal to encourage development and result in job growth. The budget contains $10 million in bond funding to establish the College Football Hall of Fame.
Currently located in South Bend, Indiana, moving the Hall of Fame to Georgia would complement the state’s other large attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola and Zoo Atlanta.
Finally, with the creation of the “Georgia Tourism Development Act” under HB 1251, we can truly attract large developments to Georgia by granting a sales tax refund to companies who establish new tourism attractions here. To be eligible for the tax refund, projects must exceed $100 million and have a positive economic impact on the state.
Despite facing the worst economic climate in generations, the Georgia General Assembly concluded a productive session by cutting taxes, balancing the budget and creating policies that move Georgia’s economy forward. We recognized the dire need of families across the state that are struggling to maintain or find a job and businesses that are doing everything they can to keep their doors open. Permanent job creation is the best catalyst for Georgia’s economic recovery.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at email@example.com.