It was a busy day at the Columbus Country Club this past Wednesday afternoon, June 21st as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce made its way to Muscogee County. The Country Club was to play host to the state chamber of commerce during their 2030 tour. This is a tour that provides powerful information about the current economic affairs in the state of Georgia, the job growth trends, and provides solutions to the problems that we face as a state. Columbus was the next stop on this tour and that afternoon.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, for over 100 years, has worked to become one of the leading promoters of job growth and economic sustainability. They are the state’s largest business advocacy organization that represents with representatives in every county. The number of employees for the members exceeds 2,000,000 people with businesses ranging from local grassroots storefronts to large corporations. With such a large network to work with and so much invested in the continued success of Georgia, the group came into Columbus that afternoon to nit only give the state affairs, but to also introduce solutions to some of the problems that we might face. This was the message of President and CEO Chris Clark as he took the floor.
Clark opened the meeting with a positive note, saying that for the fourth year in a row, Georgia had been selected as the best state to do business in, a feat that no other state has pulled off four consecutive times. However, Clark stated to maintain this growth, there are many factors that the state needs to address. Georgia is 33rd in the union for K-12 education, 45th in people that are below the poverty line, 44th in dropouts, and 33rd in obesity. These are startling statistics to say the least.
Clark also touched on where some of the counties stand as far as those that are growing, those that are on the line of being distressed, and those that are distressed already. Currently, Georgia is the 4th most distressed state in the union. 53% of our counties are in distress but the key to turning all of this around lies within job growth, specifically for millennial (those born between 1981 and 1997) and Generation Z (1998 to 2014). It all about where the talent is and within a decade or so, Georgia will add over a million new people to the work force, with baby boomers retiring and a new generation coming up.
The chamber stressed the point of making sure that we provide these new workers with incentives they need to stay in the state, including affordable housing and creating a culture where these men and women want to work, live, play, and pray. One interesting note on all of this is that in the graphs and charts shown about growth, job prosperity, and over gain, Troup County was always represented in the positive, meeting all of the standards for growth when many counties around us are in distress. This shows the positive effect of all the ongoing projects and plans here in our community.
Before the meeting closed, Clark called forward Stuart Countess, the current Chief Administrative Officer of KMMG (Kia), for a round table discussion on how Kia has been so successful here in the community. After being open for less than a decade now, the Kia plant in West Point has grown by leaps and bounds and has become a 3,000 plus employer. In fact, Kia has been the number one selling brand of car in the country, a lot of which the team credits to things that happening her at KMMG. Countess touched on the aspects of their company, what makes them so successful, and some of the continued action they hope to see out of Washington to continue their growth. With this, the meeting adjourned and the people of Columbus and Troup County can work towards these goal so that when 2030 rolls around, we will still be in the top of the field concerning job and economic growth.