A fundraiser for the re-election of state house representative Jan Tankersley is being held Wednesday during the lunch hour here in Statesboro. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is scheduled to appear in support of the first term representative's re-election bid next year.
Since the speaker is going to be "in the house" as it were, I thought it would be a good time to ask him a few questions not only as a business editor, but as a concerned citizen regarding the "state" of our state. He kindly gave me a call and agreed to answer my questions.
Since Georgia's unemployment rate (10.2 percent) is very high compared to other states (9th highest in the country, 4th highest in the southeast behind South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida), I felt that was a good place to start.
I asked the speaker what role, if any, does the legislature have in combating unemployment.
"What we have been trying to do is to look at everything that we do on the state level in terms of what it does to the overall business climate," Ralston said. "We want small businesses to feel secure in maintaining and adding jobs. A primary focus is on tax policy, having a job friendly, business friendly tax code. We also want to ease the regulatory burden of small businesses as much as we can. We have too much red tape and duplicity."
Ralston cited the vital role that Georgia's education system plays in the attraction and growth of business to the region.
"Our colleges and universities, particularly our technical college system is turning out a qualified workforce that can partner specific skills with specific industries," he said. "That too, is very important in bringing industry and jobs."
Ralston said the largest and most important development project in the state is at our back door - the Port of Savannah. It is the fastest growing port in the nation, and the second largest on the East and Gulf Coasts.
"In 2014, the expanded Panama Canal comes on line and the super container ships will be coming through," he said. "We would certainly like to be ready to accept those super container ships."
As it regards working with the state of South Carolina to deepen the harbor in Savannah to accept those ships, Ralston said he hopes that South Carolina will not "choose to become an island," but yet be "part of a growing southeastern region." Ralston concluded our conversation with encouraging words about Tankersley's first term.
"I believe in Jan, just like the people of Statesboro and Bulloch County do," he said. "In just a short time, Jan has proven to be a very hardworking member with great leadership ability. She cares so much about her constituency. She is one of the bright, rising stars in the House. That why I thought it was important to come to this event and lend my support."
So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
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