The Cobb Chamber's 2017 Legislative Agenda represents our commitment to creating an improved business climate and quality of life for Cobb County, our region and state.
This agenda was created for one reason...jobs at all skill levels.
Our agenda addresses the key concerns from our 2,500 member organizations representing more than 16,000 business leaders as well as the feedback we received from more than 1,900 residents, business and community leaders during the research phase of Cobb's Competitive EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy), the community's public-private economic and community development strategy, led by the Chamber, to generate high-wage job growth in Cobb, Metro Atlanta, and Georgia's Innovation Crescent regions.
The Chamber's Government Affairs Committee, working with its strategic partners in government, education, travel and tourism and healthcare, worked through the fall, offering their specific expertise and perspectives, in order to thoroughly evaluate these issues and their potential impact on businesses and the community.
The Cobb Chamber strongly believes the positions taken here will provide us with the tools needed to create quality jobs and improve the quality of life and standard of living for citizens in Cobb County and the metro Atlanta region.
Your support on these issues is critical to our success.
Economic Development and the recruitment/retention of jobs is the Cobb Chamber's primary focus that has led to more than 22,000 new jobs and more than $2 billion in private new investment since starting the Cobb Competitive EDGE process including recruiting major new companies like Aaron's, Atlanta United FC, Greenway Health, Vonage, the Atlanta Braves, Infosys, Osmotica Pharmaceuticals, Talenti Gelato and Alorica. It also includes the expansion of major companies such as The Home Depot, Genuine Parts, GLOCK, Novelis, Bubba Brands, Manhattan Associates, Assurant, and Atlanta Bread to name a few.
Building a stronger Cobb County will depend on growing job opportunities and earnings for residents at various skill-levels. Georgia should focus on legislation that will help generate and sustain local jobs in Cobb County's:
- Core industry clusters (Aerospace and Advanced Equipment Manufacturing; Information Technology and Software; Professional and Business Services; Wholesale Trade), and
- Growth opportunity industries (Health Care Services; Travel and Tourism; Bioscience)
by addressing the four legs of the best-practice "stool" of economic development:
- existing business retention and expansion;
- entrepreneurial and small business development; and
- workforce development
We encourage state-level efforts to ensure our county; region and state are in the most competitive position possible for future growth through sound, pro-business, job-creating legislation.
The Cobb Chamber:
- Supports public policy which promotes building and expanding Georgia's workforce, to meet the growing demands of companies already located or seeking to relocate to our State and efforts by the state to address obstacles and funding to make this happen. (Note: Workforce Development is quickly becoming the #1 factor in corporate expansions and relocations. As such, the Cobb Chamber launched the Cobb Workforce Partnership project that is bringing together K-12 public school, Life University, Georgia Highlands, Chattahoochee Technical College (CTC) and Kennesaw State University (KSU) with key businesses in Cobb to defined the skill needs of business for today and ensure the Cobb education systems are properly focused to meet these challenges.)
- Opposes policies or legislative measures that would negatively impact our business climate, are or can be perceived as discriminatory in nature and could harm our ability to create, attract, retain and expand jobs in Georgia.
- Supports the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Cobb is the third largest metro Atlanta County in amount of cargo value moving through the Savannah port with more than $935 million in cargo value. Continued funding of the port expansion is vital to our county, region and state's future growth.
- Supports the capitalization of the Invest Georgia Fund in the hundreds of millions of dollars, providing an infusion of much-needed capital to attract jobs, investment and tax revenues to the state and make Georgia competitive with VC funds in neighboring states.
- Supports proactive efforts to increase Georgia's competitiveness for jobs and economic investment through enhanced, targeted tax incentives from the state for new and existing business in order to keep pace with our neighboring states.
- Supports a uniform state school start date that would begin no sooner than the fourth Monday in August. Travel and Tourism is the second largest industry in our state and number one industry in Cobb County. Providing a uniform start date for our schools will allow communities like Cobb and our entire state to maximize the economic benefit of a longer summer season. An added benefit will be greater job and career training opportunities for youth and students.
- Supports reform of Georgia's Tier-system incentive program to eliminate the disadvantage for Tier 4 counties like Cobb.
- Supports common-sense public policies that remove regulatory barriers to growth for our targeted industries that produce quality jobs.
- Supports the continued management of our region's water resources to meet the current and future needs of metro Atlanta's growing population and businesses.
- Supports the continued review and update of regulations and laws, as well as funding to ensure adequate sources of clean water for metro Atlanta's future growth and quality of life.
- Will continue to work with our elected leaders at the state level to educate them on the benefits of and partner with them on the full implementation of Cobb's Competitive EDGE.
Dobbins, ARB/BRAC Readiness/Military Support
We believe Dobbins Air Reserve Base (ARB) is a key asset to our community, region and State as home to the 94th Airlift Wing and 22nd Air Force. With the Clay National Guard Center and Lockheed Martin’s Marietta operations co-located, Dobbins ARB provides efficient and critical support to our national security interests.
In addition Dobbins ARB serves as a triage center for disaster victims in the southeast (and beyond) utilizing one of the largest hospital networks in the U.S. The base also provides support to the CDC incident command and deployment of National Stockpile Network for medical counter measures. Recently was used to land specially equipped airplanes transferring Ebola patients from Africa to Emory Hospital.
Dobbins ARB supports an estimated 20,000 jobs and $1 billion annual economic impact.
Dobbins ARB quick facts:
- DOD installation and joint defense facility with 21 tenants
- Only military facility in metro Atlanta, 11th largest metro area in the U.S.
- Strategically located (accessible to entire Southeastern U.S. yet almost hurricane proof)
- Serving as a "Disaster Planning and Recovery Center" for the Southeastern U.S. (CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health, GEMA, FEMA, National Guard, U.S. State Department, etc.)
- 10,000 foot runway that can land any aircraft in the world; secure landing site for Air Force One
- Available hangar and ramp space for new missions and disaster support
- Ample storage space to provide for permanent and temporary resources (e.g. FEMA)
- One of the most efficient bases in DOD; privatized utilities on base (Lockheed provides bulk electricity, water, waste water treatment, etc.)
- Modern Air Traffic Control Tower and supporting infrastructure
The Cobb Chamber and the entire metro region support retaining Dobbins ARB through any potential or future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) procedure. We look forward to sharing our story of excellence and seek opportunities to expand the missions at Dobbins.
The Cobb Chamber:
- Encourages the Governor and all state leaders provide the necessary support for Georgia bases and communities to prepare for an upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, and place Georgia in a position to be a net gainer of missions.
- Supports the full exemption of military retirement income from state income tax. This would bring Georgia Tax Policy with regard to military retirement income in line with several of our border states and make Georgia a more competitive place for military retirees to locate.
Transportation is a defining issue for Cobb and the Atlanta region. Our Cobb Competitive EDGE community-wide survey of more than 1,900 residents and businesses of Cobb's show transportation mobility and traffic congestion are Cobb's top challenge. We believe that our future success as a county, region and state depend on our current and future transportation challenges being met and overcome.
The Cobb Chamber:
- Supports continued advancement and innovation from state leaders to ensure comprehensive transportation and infrastructure state funding increases year over year. It is critical that dollars remain available for large-scale projects and matching funds for local infrastructure investment.
- Supports the current mission of Community Improvement Districts and oppose legislative efforts that would seek to minimize or impede their impact and effectiveness, for the areas they serve.
- Supports the creation of an efficient and effective transit governance model for the Greater Metro-Atlanta region that works for Cobb and other partner communities.
- Supports a transit solution connecting Cobb to the region’s transit system, to ensure we meet our increasing capacity challenges as our county continues to grow and mature.
- Continues to support for equipment and facility infrastructure at the State’s technical colleges along major transportation corridors such as Chattahoochee Technical College, for programs such as Commercial Truck Driving, Diesel Equipment Technology, Logistics and Supply Chain Management and others in support of the Governor’s High Demand Logistics & Transportation Sector.
K-12 & Higher Education
In order to ensure a qualified workforce for our region, Georgia must continue to make the necessary investments in our educational infrastructure. A properly funded and successful education system that offers everything from pre-K to doctorates—currently enjoyed in Cobb—--is a key economic driver for our long-term future for existing business success, business expansion and new business success. (Note: Workforce Development is quickly becoming the #1 factor in corporate expansions and relocations. As such, the Cobb Chamber launched the Cobb Workforce Partnership project that is bringing together K-12 public school, Life University, Georgia Highlands, Chattahoochee Technical College and Kennesaw State University with key businesses in Cobb to defined the skill needs of business for today and ensure the Cobb education systems are properly focused to meet these challenges.) Our K-12 systems are highly regarded by parents and national experts, and indeed, both Cobb County and Marietta City Schools consistently have higher graduation rates and scores on key subject areas than most of our peers across the state. At the postsecondary level, Cobb is one of the most highly educated counties in the U.S. where 45.1 percent of adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Our colleges and universities are home to more than 42,000 students and 8,000 graduates each year.
The Cobb Chamber:
- Supports full funding of longstanding enrollment-driven formulas for K-12 as well as higher education. Austerity cuts of the past few years have gone too far in their impact on operations, personnel, local taxation, and tuition and fees.
- Supports continued legislative focus at K-12 levels promoting early career identification of careers (e.g. funded UScience Tool guided by Senator Lindsey Tippins) so that students will begin to pursue career interest much earlier in the journey through the K-12 system and the development opportunities for these students to experience these careers (e.g. apprenticeships). This is a critical component in the workforce development supply chain focus being guided by the Cobb Workforce Partnership project.
- Supports a uniform state school start date that would begin no sooner than the fourth Monday in August.
- Supports improved state level efforts to maintain employee benefits for school district employees.
- Supports efforts to reduce unfunded mandates to local school districts.
- Supports the Governor’s Educational Reform Initiative
The Cobb Chamber's Position on the Governor's Educational Reform Initiative:
The Cobb Chamber applauds the Governor and the Commission's Work to improve public education – almost nothing is more important than our children's education.
Whatever the final actions are to be, the Cobb Chamber would ask the delegation to:
- Understand how very, very hard it is to be a teacher today
- Understand that they are not perfect, none of us are
- Understand they are the most dedicated professionals in any field
- Understand how very, very hard it is to hire and retain teachers
- Understand that the future of our children largely depends on them
Given this, any changes should be tempered and we also ask:
Please do NOT allow others to demoralize those in this career field to make themselves feel better or score political points. These are and have been extremely dedicated professionals.
- Georgia's is a very big system so please, do not allow for unrealistic expectations around quick changes / improvements
- Look at what it does to Cobb's funding, which is already below others – 62 year old exemption and equalization in the QBE already impacting our bottom line.
- Support of $39.5 million in General Obligation Bonds as recommended by the Board of Regents for construction of the Academic Learning Center (ALC) on the Kennesaw Campus of KSU. The ALC is an 147,000 GSF building that will augment instructional spaces at KSU with more than two dozen classrooms, four seminar rooms, a multipurpose lecture hall, and computer and other specialized labs.
- Kennesaw State University, has grown exponentially, not only in student population, but also in its engagement with community and business partners. A recent milestone representing their continued growth, is being elevated to a doctoral research institution with moderate research activity — designated “R3” — in The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning 2015 update. With this designation, KSU is now poised to offer more graduate level programs and expand their research portfolio. This designation also positions KSU to be more collaborative with other universities, including research intensive institutions (UGA, GT, GSU and AU), Technical Colleges, businesses and community partners on competitive grant proposals at both the state and federal level.
- Support for budget funds that enhance KSU’s ability to secure federal funds for research and programs for students.
Healthcare is a growth industry in the United States as well as in Cobb County. We have a tremendous set of resources, both from the provider side to the research and development aspects of bioscience and pharmaceutical developments. Our Cobb’s Competitive EDGE strategy has identified both bioscience and healthcare services as two of our growth opportunities for Cobb. We must do everything we can to foster our existing industry in this sector as we seek to grow future opportunities.
The Cobb Chamber:
- Supports continuation of tax exemption for not-for-profit community hospitals.
- Supports improved reimbursement levels for all Medicaid providers, including increased payments to primary care physicians for seeing the patients most in need.
- Supports hospitals in the current Certificate of Need process.
- Supports reasonable market-based solutions and greater competition and more choices for small business at the state level to help keep costs of employer-provided insurance in check.
- Supports common sense and reasonable resolution to the Provider Payment Agreement Model, which will both adequately address the budget needs, while minimizing potential negative impacts to our local health care providers.
- Supports expanding coverage options for employers and employees through a private, free-market approach to small business exchanges.
- Mitigate the regulatory and financial burden resulting from the implementation of federal health care reform.
- Supports physician payment methodologies that are adequate and sustainable for out-of-network emergency care that result in protections for patients. Ensuring that the controversial process of physician certification maintenance are not a condition of medical licensure.
- Supports the future funding of Chattahoochee Technical College to build a $21.7 million Health Building at its Marietta Campus in support of health care providers in Cobb County.