Georgia is fortunate to have a diverse business community that fuels our state’s economy. With 15 Fortune 500 and 32 Fortune 1000 companies, we are home to some of the world’s leading corporations that are bringing jobs, investment, and opportunity to those who live and work here in Georgia.
But ask any one of those Fortune 500 or 1000 CEOs and they will tell you that Georgia’s overall success in the global marketplace is directly tied to the state’s ability to foster a climate favorable to small business — a sector that makes up almost 98 percent of registered Georgia companies (those with less than 500 employees).
As the Georgia Chamber joins with the U.S. Small Business Administration to celebrate "National Small Business Week," it is important that we all recognize the tremendous impact small business success has had on Georgia’s economy.
Numbers don’t lie when telling the story of how critical small businesses are to our current recovery and long-term future. The May 2012 report on small business from the National Economic Council states that two out of every three net jobs created over the last 20 years have come from the nation’s small business sector — and that nearly half of the private sector workforce is employed by those companies. Here in Georgia, not only are 98 percent of state businesses categorized as small — 95 percent of those businesses employ fewer than 50 and almost 80 percent employ fewer than 10 people.
Given those statistics, you can see why the Georgia Chamber is dedicated to ensuring that the state maintains a business-friendly environment for companies of all sizes. We have partnered with elected leaders to create and expand tax credits and incentives that encourage job creation, investment and research and development endeavors. This past legislative session alone was very beneficial to small business owners, with the passage of comprehensive tax reform, increased access to venture capital, a new state tax tribunal to expedite business tax disputes with the Department of Revenue, and state regulatory reforms that will improve the efficiency for businesses to obtain permits from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.
With 67 percent of our investors classified as small businesses, our Chamber has placed an expanded focus on providing additional tools and resources to help these companies grow. To do this, the Chamber formed a Small Business Advisory Council, headed by a group of small business owners from around the state and focused on identifying specific needs for this important sector.
Resulting from the Council’s efforts, this year we launched the Georgia Chamber Exchange — an online marketplace where these members can cultivate business relationships and advertise products and services across the state. The Chamber also is working with companies to help them explore opportunities to do business overseas and truly leverage today’s global economy. Webinars, savings programs, and partnerships with local chambers are just a few of the other services we have put into place for small business.
Strong partnerships between the public and private sectors have allowed Georgia to build one of the strongest pro-business atmospheres in the nation. But our work is far from over.
In a time where job creation and investment is the number-one priority across the country, we will continue to do all we can to make sure that Georgia businesses — both large and small — have exactly what they need to effectively compete here in the United States and around the world.
Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.