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Georgia political, business leaders vow to focus on freight, broadband

By David Pendered

Georgia’s political and business leadership on Wednesday named freight mobility and rural broadband as top priorities for improvement during remarks at the annual Eggs & Issues breakfast, hosted virtually this year by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Georgia broadband

The colors mark broadband service availability. Orange areas have service, beige areas don’t have service, the blue area shows were an area has asked the state Department of Community Affairs to alter the designation. Credit: broadband.georgia.gov

The nuance in the comments is the focus on the movement of freight and databased logistics management that requires broadband, and the jobs associated with them. These sectors offer the potential to create jobs that would pay living wages in rural Georgia. The efforts occur amid a federal review of freight movement nationwide.

Previous mobility efforts have focused on expanding the capacity of highways to transport vehicles of all types. Results have included the formation of the ATL, the entity that’s to help get commuters off roadways by enhancing transit in metro Atlanta, truck-only interstate lanes, and a $900 billion funding package to help offset declining federal road funding.

The extension of broadband into rural areas had largely been a laissez-faire matter in Georgia, until the past two years. The Legislature passed laws intended to allow more providers to distribute broadband, and to resolve a dispute that had hindered expansion.

On Wednesday, the focus on freight mobility and broadband was evident in comments including:

Gov. Brian Kemp delivered remarks at the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast, sponsored annually by the Georgia Chamber and conducted virtually this year. Credit: vimeo.com

Gov. Brian Kemp

  • “As part of their new, statewide strategic plan, the Georgia Department of Transportation is initiating two new $10 million programs for freight operations and rural development, to target vital infrastructure needs and support rural economic growth across our state.”

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan

  • “The message I want to send to people literally all over the world is, ‘We’re OK if your freight just comes in and out of Georgia. But we want to be stickier than that.’ We want to have a business environment that allows and creates an opportunity for a warehouse or production facility or management facility or some sort of finished good areas, so you can hire hard working Georgians to be part of that business.”

House Speaker David Ralston

Ralston outlined work of the House Rural Development Council and observed:

  • “We’ve had some initiatives come out of the council that have passed. Some health care legislation. Last year we had some rural high speed broadband initiatives. They were major legislation. On broadband, which I believe is so foundational to many things we’re looking at, such as business, education, health care and infrastructure, we’ve got work yet to do on high speed broadband and we’re going to continue to focus on that and make it a real priority of the House.”

Georgia Chamber board Chair Teresa White

Teresa White

Teresa White took the gavel Wednesday, during the virtual Eggs & Issues breakfast, as the 2021 board chair of the Georgia Chamber. Credit: vimeo.com

White cited recommendations from the chamber’s resiliency and recovery task force and observed:

  • “We identified five priorities for 2021 – Flexible and competitive tax policy; upskilling and workforce; infrastructure of the future; cyber safe harbor; rural resiliency.”

Chris Clark, the Georgia Chamber’s executive director:

White called upon Clark to elaborate on the five priorities and he observed:

  • “Our resiliency and recovery task force has started to reimagine a new post-COVID economy. Our government affairs team, and the Georgia government affairs council, will make recovery the focus of this session by addressing everything from cyber security, to freght and logistics, to reskilling of the workforce, to helping rural Georgia.”
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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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