From the winner's circle: Georgia 2030
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce was coming up on its 100th anniversary when it decided to pursue a change of strategy. Prompted by shifting political, demographic and industrial headwinds, the new 15-year strategic plan, dubbed Georgia 2030, was meant to serve as a road map for leaders in business and government to better address new challenges before they become unmanageable.
“Coming into 2016, we were really faced with a state that’s rapidly changing, and we knew we needed to pivot as an organization,” said Kelsey Moore, director of economic development and special projects at the Georgia Chamber. “For much of the state, especially the rural counties, the outlook doesn’t look good, so we set out to empower them to change before some of these predictions become a reality.”
Chamber staff began by pulling data on demographic and economic trends, using subscription software from Chmura Economics & Analytics, as well as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. They found that, by year 2030, Georgia will have an additional 1.9 million residents, and will no longer be majority-white or Republican.
Armed with their findings, a delegation from the chamber embarked on a tour of the state’s 12 regions, which was organized into a series of sessions held at affiliate chambers and open to the public. Attendees engaged with the presenters using interactive live-polling software, which allowed them to fill out surveys in real-time on their smartphones and tablets to provide feedback about key issues in the state.
“We were selling out and it was usually standing-room only, which honestly came as a shock to us,” said Moore. “For a lot of these communities, no one ever really asked them before what they thought about these issues. They were really appreciative that we weren’t just lecturing them—we were actually listening to their opinions.”
The Georgia Chamber drew upon the survey data and insights gained from the listening tour and synthesized it into a strategic document. The final report found that 76 percent of respondents think the state’s legal environment is too costly for business; 83 percent support advancing dialogue with diverse communities; and 60 percent support expanding Medicaid or implementing a Georgia-specific alternative. Another major finding was that 85 percent of respondents want to see the chamber more actively promote Georgia-made products and services.
“We found that our investors and stakeholders expect the business community to be involved in issues that we weren’t previously involved in, like race, diversity and poverty,” said Moore. “We’ve always been involved in education, but there’s more of an understanding now that if a child doesn’t have enough to eat, he won’t be able to concentrate in class.”
The success of the Georgia 2030 strategic initiative helped the chamber land the coveted Chamber of the Year title at the ACCE convention in Nashville in July.
“It was a wonderful, outside nod to all of the blood, sweat and tears we put in and all of the thousands of miles spent travelling around the state,” said Moore. “Getting that recognition from an international organization really reaffirms the work we’re doing and gives us a boost to keep going.”
Looking ahead, Moore says the chamber plans to use the data and feedback from the listening tour to foster a dialogue with diverse communities about issues like healthcare, education and workforce.
“We received so much great feedback from across Georgia by engaging and conversing with all of our stakeholders and giving them a voice,” said Moore. “We know that if we can show you what the future looks like and start talking about it today, then we have the opportunity to change it. That’s a really positive thing for a lot of our communities.”
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