Each year, my colleagues and I seek to pass legislation that will encourage economic development all over Georgia. We often focus on rural areas, as they have been hardest hit during recent economic downturns. One of the ways that we support rural economic development is through the House Rural Development Council. The Georgia House created the HRDC during the 2017 Session, and we reauthorized it in 2019 and 2021. The initial resolution creating the HRDC acknowledged that despite an overall, steady economic recovery for the state as a whole, rural portions of Georgia have not shared proportionately in the recovery.
That lag in recovery is being exacerbated as rural areas continue to lose population. The HRDC studies factors that improve communities’ outcomes — including education, health care, infrastructure, and existing industries. The HRDC typically meets in locations around the state and reviews presentations from subject-matter experts. They use these presentations and the information they have gathered to formulate their recommendations.
The HRDC’s recommendations frequently turn into legislation that supports our rural communities’ continued growth. For example, these recommendations have led to House Bill 897 that creates uniformity for the timber harvesting industry across our state. In addition, we passed House Bill 777 to support our Georgia foresters by improving our building codes to include provisions for new mass timber construction techniques. The passage of House Resolution 185 in 2021 to reauthorize the HRDC was vitally important, and I was proud to see it pass the House unanimously. The continued success of the HRDC is an essential priority of the House Republican Caucus.
Likewise, I was proud to advocate for House Resolution 248, sponsored by Chairman Ron Stephens from Savannah, which designated the “Savannah Logistics Technology Innovation Corridor.”
As the Port of Savannah continues to flourish, it is more important than ever that Georgia be a leader in information technology and logistics. The designation of Chatham, Bryan, Effingham, Bulloch, Liberty, and Screven Counties as the state’s official technology innovation corridor, with the support of Georgia Southern University, will foster growth and innovation in our area. This designation also gives our region an advantage in pursuing state and federal grants designed for information technology.
Another crucial economic development initiative that passed this year is Senate Bill 255. SB 255 establishes a grant program called the “Border Region Retail Tourism Development Program.” This new grant program will increase tourism and competitiveness with bordering states by encouraging the development of retail and tourism projects in border regions — defined as being within 25 miles of the state border. This program’s focus on our border regions will significantly impact District 159, creating new opportunities for investment in our communities. I look forward to seeing the positive results of this program in our area for years to come!
Please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.