All About the Mission - January 18
Economic Development Day for the Leadership Augusta Program is always an eye-opening day for class participants. As I shared with the class at the beginning of the day, if you ask 10 people what economic development is, you will get 10 different answers. So, I challenged the Class that while they experience various organizations and activities during the day that contribute to a growing economy, economic development is a community effort beyond the tactical strategies we traditionally associate with investment and job growth.
In thinking back to my Georgia Academy for Economic Development training, I shared with the Class that if you have to define economic development succinctly, it is the creation of wealth for community benefit. And, I reminded the Class that the creation of wealth is not limited to monetary wealth, but the wealth of education, opportunity and personal investment. One person can impact our community’s economic future by shopping local, investing in a local non-profit or simply being a positive advocate for all that our region has to offer.
I also shared with the Class the components of the Chamber’s mission that pave the way for economic development. As an example, less than half the counties in Georgia exempt manufacturers on an excise tax on energy costs. Fortunately for the manufacturers in Augusta-Richmond County, the Chamber has maintained a strong position and continuously advocates that the cost of this excise tax would increase the operating expenses of our manufacturing base by $4MM per year, conservatively. With the recent announcements by the Augusta Economic Development Authority for new manufacturing investment by PureCycle and Arubus, it’s not hard to do the math on how much money these companies will save by the exemption the Chamber continues to highlight and educate elected officials on and the merits of such a tax benefit and the jobs it creates.
Another example of how the Chamber supports economic development through the execution of policy is the recent SPLOST VIII referendum which included special funding for a rail spur in the Augusta Corporate Industrial Park. Thanks in part due to the Chamber’s endorsement and educational efforts on the referendum, the measure passed by overwhelming voter approval. The return on investment from a one penny sales tax yields creation of wealth for everyone whether that is a job opportunity, a local construction contractor or any one of thousands of businesses that have a higher benefit of consumerism.
Of course, the Chamber’s mission includes many other activities that contribute to economic development whether that is our workforce solutions programs or the services and opportunities we provide our small business members. As the Chamber continues to “Achieve More Together” as a membership organization, our collective economic development is only limited by our imaginations and how positively we approach every day as an opportunity.
Our thanks go to Cal Wray, President of the Augusta Economic Development Authority, for chairing this year’s Economic Development Day. Our thanks also go to Kim Evans, Class Chair and Chris Bird, Class Co-Chair for their continuing dedication to provide a first-class Leadership Augusta Program.