New chamber office

Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, announces a new satellite office Tuesday that has opened in Brunswick.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has opened a satellite office in Brunswick that will deal with issues affecting Coastal Georgia.

Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, said the new office is the second established in the state. The Tifton office focuses on issues facing rural counties.

The main office in Atlanta focuses on urban issues in the state.

“We are excited to officially open our third office location at the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber,” Clark said. “As we plan our state’s future, being a voice for business across all regions of Georgia is paramount to our legislative activity and ability to maintain Georgia’s top business climate.”

Ralph Staffins, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, also serves as chairman of the Georgia Association of Chambers. He said having a strong relationship with state chamber officials helped lead to the decision to open a satellite office in Brunswick.

“It strengthens out partnerships in the entire state,” he said. “All great departments are set by relationships.”

Clark said about 400 chamber officials across the state are in town for a government affairs conference at King & Prince for the next several days.

The Golden Isles was also the fourth in-person stop on a statewide tour to get feedback about different issues they see impacting the state over the next decade. As many as 12 to 14 more in-person stops are planned.

Clark said the state is struggling with short-term issues such as lack of child care, transportation, skills for available jobs and a labor shortage.

“The labor crisis is much worse than we were thinking,” he said.

The statewide tour is similar to the New Georgia Economy initiative that launched more than two years ago. The program asked participants to predict 10 things that would likely happen in the next decade.

“We missed one,” he said. “COVID accelerated everything.”

Low-wage earners and Generation Z, people 24 years old and younger, have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.

Black-owned businesses continue to struggle, as well as the hospitality industry.

Last year, at one point, nearly half of all the hospitality industry jobs were gone.

Clark predicted 10,000 small business closures this year.

Despite the state’s economic challenges, he said Georgia is on its way to a strong recovery.

“We’re poised and are rebounding really well,” he said. “You folks on the coast spent more money. You aren’t bashful about going online.”

Clark predicted another year of record growth in the state.

There are growing concerns about China’s plans to dominate the global economy by targeting certain sectors such as ship building and information technology.

“They are investing in changing consumer habits,” he said. “If they control where you plug something in, they control the data.”

Clark asked the audience to participate in a poll where they could answer questions online with their phones with instant results after each question. A majority of participants agreed political divisiveness and lack of a qualified workforce were among the greatest risks facing the state over the next decade.

New jobs in the state and region will come from new technology, followed by the hospitality industry, according to respondents.

Robotics will force workers to improve their skills or be displaced. And the most critical issues in the region will be a qualified and skilled workforce, infrastructure and the business climate.

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