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Chamber Members Voice Legislative Concerns for State Agenda
by Chamber News on January 14th, 2013

by Danielle Reynolds, Valdosta State University Intern
Several Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce members addressed the Government Affairs Council at the Members to be Heard meeting on Monday regarding the interests of their businesses, organizations and the community. The major issues included support for the arts, the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act, Invest Georgia, current hospital fees, and support for Moody Air Force Base.
Two larger subjects dealt with support for Moody Air Force Base and South Georgia Medical Center. Both the military base and the hospital make significant contributions to the Valdosta-Lowndes County community, and threats to either could negatively affect the area.
Leslie Jacobs, with Jacobs’ Ladder Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., submitted her concerns for Moody, as many of her clients and volunteers come from the base. Jacobs’ business and numerous others would be greatly impacted if Moody were to close. Currently, the Chamber is working on developing a South Georgia Military Affairs Council to do everything possible to maintain Moody’s security.
Randy Sauls, with SGMC, addressed three separate issues facing the hospital. SGMC wishes to continue the hospital Medicaid Financing Program, protect the Not-For-Profit Sales Tax Exemption, and support the Certificate of Need Process. Each issue is concerned with the hospital’s revenue and the serious impact of these issues on the community. Sauls emphasized the Medicaid Financing Program, which would result in rate cuts to Medicaid if eliminated. According to Sauls, such rate cuts would lead to lost jobs, decreased services, and hospital closures throughout Georgia.
Amanda Peacock, with Valdosta Main Street, presented the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act and the issue of tax incentives within Georgia’s official Renaissance Districts. The act proposes tax incentives for new construction or renovation, occupied housing and businesses investing in the creation of jobs. According to the act, such incentives will support Georgia’s economy, keeping it competitive.
Baha Zeidan, with Azalea Health Innovations, brought up Invest Georgia, suggesting Georgia devise a program giving small businesses access to capital for growth. The impetus for the bill is to make sure jobs don’t leave the state. The Invest Georgia Fund will seek biotech, advanced manufacturing, logistics, agribusiness and tech sectors.
Cheryl Oliver, with the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, discussed the significance of the arts to the local economy, including nonprofit organizations and creative enterprises. Oliver emphasized the arts ability to create jobs, provide tourist revenue, enhance local businesses and provide money for state and local governments.
Despite the many benefits of the arts, Oliver pointed out that the arts have faced severe budget cuts with more cuts expected in next year’s state budget. The Georgia arts budget ranks poorly in comparison to other states.
According to Oliver, because of a reduction in funds, the arts are feeling an ever-tightening noose.
The GAC will further discuss all presented issues prior to their trip to Atlanta to meet with the state legislators in February. 

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