One of the most important responsibilities for any governor is economic development, directly through interaction with companies and indirectly through the image the state projects. Companies seek environments that are stable, supportive and with tax and regulatory environments that will not impede success. The states that can offer that combination ultimately benefit from an expanded tax base and jobs for their citizens.
Georgia has benefited from a long history of governors and elected officials who understood the impact their actions would have on our economy. That tradition has continued with Gov. Nathan Deal, who as one of his first actions announced the creation of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative — a partnership of the public and private sectors focused on economic development that will hasten our state’s recovery from the most recent recession and put programs and policies in place that will benefit our state for decades.
Gov. Deal knew the best way to learn what businesses need to create jobs was to go directly to the source. He formed a steering committee of representatives from a variety of industries and leaders of key state agencies. That team spent most of 2011 gathering input from thousands of Georgians through surveys and public hearings held throughout the state.
The results of that initial effort have already made a positive impact. Companies are choosing to locate or expand in Georgia because the sales tax on energy used during the manufacturing process was removed. New workforce development programs have been created, and new funding sources are in place, to attract start-ups and entrepreneurs. Water supply projects have been funded, and the state has sharpened its focus on the strategic industries most likely to call Georgia home.
Those were all great steps forward. Gov. Deal knew our work was not done, so he reconvened the committee to take a closer look at the tax incentives and exemptions offered as part of the economic development process. Once again, this process has included open meetings, giving anyone an opportunity to share ideas. Recommendations will be developed over the next few months. The governor will determine which he will ask the General Assembly to support.
Issues being examined by this initiative are ones that Gov. Deal would have addressed with or without the assistance of the committee he formed or the public input that has been received. In a time people are feeling disenfranchised from their elected leaders, he invited involvement. I believe that has made this process stronger and more effective, as it has ensured meaningful results that will benefit Georgia businesses and, as a result of new jobs and investment, the families that call our state home.
John K. Watson, former chief of staff for Gov. Sonny Perdue, is involved in commercial real estate.