Starting his final year in office, Gov. Deal says Georgia is better off than it was in 2011~~
Gov. Nathan Deal had one key message for the Georgia General Assembly during his annual Eggs and Issues speech to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Wednesday (Jan. 10, 2018): Don’t let Amazon dominate the legislative session.
The governor spoke at length about the state’s bid to get Amazon’s HQ2, telling business leaders that “we have made a strong, highly competitive offer that highlights all that makes us unique and truly the best place for any company to do business.”
But the governor does not want legislators to preoccupy their time in the 2018 regular session with trying to pass legislation meant to appease Amazon this year. He pledged to call a special session to deal with those issues if Georgia is among the final three candidates. However, he expects it will be months before Amazon narrows the field of candidates, or picks a winner.
Deal urged lawmakers not to waste time with proposals aimed at “trying to guess what Amazon is going to do” during their 40-day session that began this week.
“Let me assure you that if Georgia makes the list of final three contenders for HQ2, I will call a special session so that we can make whatever statutory changes are required to accommodate a business opportunity of this magnitude,” Deal said. “To do so before we know where we stand would be presumptuous on our part and premature.”
Metro Atlanta is among 238 cities and regions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico that submitted proposals last fall for Amazon’s second headquarters and the promise of 50,000 new jobs.
In addition to financial incentives, Amazon has said it wants to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and have room to expand its new headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet (0.74 million sq. meters) in the next decade.
Details of Georgia’s bid have not been disclosed. Deal assured business leaders at the breakfast the state made “a strong, highly competitive offer.”
The Eggs and Issues speech was somewhat of a preview of the State of the State address that Deal will deliver to the General Assembly Thursday.
He outlined some initiatives he wants to undertake in his final year as governor, such as upgrading 11 regional airports in mostly rural counties (Burke, Colquitt, Cook, Coweta, Macon, Morgan, Newton, Polk, Seminole, Washington and Wilkes counties), putting $35 million in the state budget for the Savannah port deepening project and implementing recommendations from his Court Reform Council.
One of the council’s recommendations is a Constitutional amendment to create a Business Court that would serve as a place to deal with disputes involving businesses.
“Such a stable legal environment will help ensure that we remain the number one state in which to do business and also provide relief to the demands placed on our superior and state courts, making our judicial system as a whole more efficient
The improvements at the airports are intended to spur economic development in those rural areas.
“Many of the towns and cities in these counties lack direct access to our interstate highway system and are unlikely to have such access in the foreseeable future,” the governor said. “Their airports provide the best option for job creators interested in viewing their resources.
“As we make these improvements, we will be mindful of the fact that the longer the runway, the bigger the corporate jets and the greater the possibilities for our rural citizens,” he said.
Deal ended his speech with a warning to the field of candidates vying to replace the term-limited governor, who will leave office at the beginning of 2019: Be careful of what you say on the campaign trail.
“Eight years ago, I campaigned to govern,” he said. “I recommend to all those on the ballot this year to do the same. Choose your words carefully, because they will follow you into office, should you be blessed with that responsibility.”