Opinion: Thoughts on 2022, Georgia’s economy and COVID’s impact

Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

GUEST VIEW

As the state’s premier business advocate, the Georgia Chamber has worked closely with business, health care and government leaders over the last 2 years to address the ramifications of COVID-19. Despite the impacts of the pandemic, Georgia has attracted record economic investment, led in economic recovery compared to other states and delivered high-quality jobs to Georgians in every corner of the state.

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Chris Clark

Credit: contributed

Chris Clark

Credit: contributed

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Chris Clark

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Omicron, the 8th variant of COVID -19, has served as a reminder to Georgia businesses of the continuing impact of this deadly virus and the need for bold action to secure the long-term economic prosperity of our state and its residents. The Georgia Chamber’s 2022 vision and agenda addresses the needs of Georgia’s job creators, their employees and customers alike.

  • COVID and the resulting economic ripple effects continue to disrupt global supply chains. We applaud Gov. Brian Kemp, the Georgia Ports Authority, railroad and trucking partners, and the Georgia Department of Transportation for bold and aggressive responses to add offsite facilities, utilize our inland ports, reduce regulatory requirements and adapt quickly in the face of added strains on our infrastructure. The work of the Joint Georgia House and Senate Commission on Freight Infrastructure Funding and E-Commerce will continue to be central to the long-term resolution of this issue. If omicron closes global manufacturing plants, Georgia businesses and their employees will suffer. However, creative and innovative solutions like U.S. Sen. John Ossoff’s CHIP manufacturing legislation will be critical to shoring up these global supply chains.
  • Georgia’s hospitality and travel industries were hardest hit in the first wave of the pandemic, and our air carriers, like Georgia’s Delta Air Lines, were just starting to see significant recovery in certain sectors. International border closures and lockdowns will impact convention, business and recreational travel. Supporting these companies, from mom-and-pop local restaurants to multinationals, must remain a priority.
  • Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has insightfully recognized the traumatic impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of Georgians, and another variant could threaten the fragile mental state of many more. The Georgia Chamber will support his efforts in the upcoming session to deal with this growing concern. We encourage all Georgians to show care and grace in the new year.
  • Our health care industry has been under incredible pressure for over 24 months and omicron could push many of our physicians, nurses and allied health professionals past the breaking point. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has been an important advocate for our health care system, and we will work with him on improving health outcomes for all Georgians. Further, we will support efforts by Gov. Kemp, the Georgia Board of Regents, private universities and our technical colleges to increase the number of providers in every community and address our care provider shortage.
  • Every Georgia job creator faces a labor crisis and a new variant could likely complicate this problem. Businesses have increased flexibility, raised wages and offered innovative benefits but still face a skills gap and disconnect with job seekers. Winning the long-term war for talent has been and will remain a priority of the Georgia Chamber. We will work with state leadership across party lines in the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Departments of Labor and Economic Development and educators to develop bold solutions for a transformed talent pipeline.
  • Finally, Georgia businesses continue to worry about a deepening crime epidemic facing communities across the country and throughout our state. Protecting employees, customers and our families must be a top priority. The Georgia Chamber will work with Gov. Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and other Georgia leaders to mitigate the surge in crime by supporting law enforcement, addressing mental health issues, and protecting businesses and their customers from unfair legal practices that seek to punish property owners instead of criminals when an incident occurs.

As we face this new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue our efforts to promote COVID vaccinations and boosters.

Georgia’s economic recovery has been truly remarkable and focusing on the issues that matter most to Georgia residents will firmly secure quality jobs for all while helping all communities prosper.

Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber.