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SNAPSHOTS: 60 Seconds…with Chris Cummiskey, Commissioner Of The Georgia Department Of Economic Development

Chris Cummiskey, Commissioner Of The Georgia Department Of Economic Development

By the Business Facilities Staff
From the January/February 2012 issue

The final report of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative was unveiled by Gov. Nathan Deal this month. The report outlines the needs of each of the state’s 12 regions and includes a set of comprehensive recommendations to shape an economic development strategy for the state to ensure the success of job creation and business growth in Georgia.

BF: What was the primary purpose of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative?
CC: We wanted to develop comprehensive recommendations to ensure the short- and long-term success of job creation and business growth in Georgia. The final report will help shape our economic development strategy for the state. It outlines statewide opportunities, strategies and action steps as well as insights into the unique needs of each of the state’s 12 regions.

BF: How was the report developed?
CC: We had input from thousands of business leaders across the state. The initiative examined six key factors identified by site selectors as the most important influencers in corporate location and expansion decisions: infrastructure; innovation; education and workforce development; friendly business climate; global commerce; government efficiency. The final report identifies opportunities, strategies and action steps in each of these categories.

California’s CRA earthquake

More than 400 Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRA) in California began to phase out their operations on Feb. 1 in the wake of a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling upholding a state law mandating their abolition.

The Dissolution Act was adopted last summer with strong support from Gov. Jerry Brown, who wants to reallocate about $1 billion in CRA funding to help close the state’s budget deficit. The Dec. 29 ruling was a crushing blow to CRAs, who had sued to block the measure.

Economic development associations in California are springing into action to fill the void. The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) will hold a special session at its annual conference this spring to discuss strategies for dealing with the impact of the CRA ruling.

“CALED would like to remind everyone that economic development is not dead. Redevelopment was a key tool that many communities used for economic development and may continue to be as the California Redevelopment Association works on reforms, but the economic development community also has to work on solutions and tools that can help our businesses and communities thrive,” CALED said, in a statement to its members.


BF: Did the process that was used to produce the report work well?
CC: What really struck us about this process as we gathered data, and again in the final report, was the remarkable similarity of opinion among the regions about the need for a sustained, quality workforce; a better accessibility to capital and the desire for reduced regulation, a universal support for innovation and small enterprise.

BF: How will these recommendations be implemented?
CC: Education and workforce development was, by far, the category cited by survey respondents as the most critical area in need of attention. The Governor’s Office of Workforce Development has already launched the “Go Build Georgia” program in response to feedback about the need for workforce in the skilled labor trades. To enhance Georgia’s business climate, the governor has proposed several legislative changes to the state’s statutory incentives, including sales and use tax exemptions on energy used in manufacturing and for construction materials for competitive projects. We also intend to modernize Georgia’s job tax credit structure. Various other aspects of the recommendations will be implemented over the next few years.

BF: Do you believe that the recommendations that emerged from the Initiative will result in significant advancements in economic development strategy in Georgia?
CC: Our goal is for Georgia to be the No. 1 state in the United States for business. We now have the information we need to develop and implement strategic changes to the state’s existing assets, to ensure we continue to outpace our competition around the Southeast and the nation. It has been a very, very rewarding process and will continue to be as we move into the implementation phase.

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