By Maria Saporta
Closer cooperation between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is in the works.
At today’s Metro Atlanta Chamber board meeting, Georgia Chamber’s new president and CEO — Chris Clark — was in attendance.
“Chris is joining our board,” said an enthusiastic Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
“I’m excited about it,” Clark said. “There’s strength in numbers, and we want to work closely with all the local chambers in the state of Georgia.”
Williams said that both chambers are tackling many of the same issues facing the state, and they have worked together to push some bills through the legislature.
But both chamber presidents said there was room for greater cooperation, particularly when it comes to economic development policy and the tools that the state needs to recruit new business investment to Georgia.
Williams said the chambers want to help make sure Georgia’s economic development policies are as competitive as possible.
For example, one hot prospect is software-maker Red Hat Inc., a company based in Raleigh, N.C., is considering moving its headquarters along with hundreds of jobs. The CEO of Red Hat is the former president of Delta Air Lines, Jim Whitehurst, and key Atlantans have been doing what they can to convince the company to move to the metro Atlanta.
But when North Carolina got wind of the possibility of Red Hat moving its headquarters, the state has been fighting aggressively to keep the software company in its state.
At the same time, Texas also has entered the game, and it too is doing what it can to lure Red Hat.
“North Carolina and Texas have greater resources for economic development than we do,” Williams said. “We don’t need to beat other states, but we have to be competitive.”
To that Clark, who used to work for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said: “If you can’t beat them on the cash incentives, you have to beat them somewhere else.”
Creating and maintaining a “business-friendly atmosphere” in Georgia resonates with both organizations, Williams said.
And both chambers know it’s best for them to work closely together on issues that impact the state’s competitiveness, such as transportation, water and education.
“The big issues that we have transcend regional boundaries,” Clark said. “I think you are going to see us standing down there (at the state capitol) side-by-side.”
The last time that the Georgia Chamber had its president on the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s board was when former U.S. Rep. Lindsay Thomas held that job from 1996 to 2002.