Tifton Gazette

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February 2, 2013

Despite budget cuts, Chamber says Tift poised for growth

TIFTON —  Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to cut $190 million from Regional Economic Business Assistance grants and the OneGeorgia program will make it more difficult for Georgia to compete with other states for industries and businesses, but the president and CEO of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce said working with less is nothing new and Tifton is poised for growth.

“We have seen a lot of activity and experienced a lot of success over the last couple of years,” said Brian Marlowe. “In short, we are thriving at a time when many communities are merely trying to survive.”

The state’s budget has been the major topic of conversation since the General Assembly convened two weeks ago. During the first week, members of the House and Senate appropriation committees heard from various people, including Deal and numerous state department heads, concerning the state of the economy. The consensus was that the state is expected to see continued modest growth, but it remains weak. Tight budgets for various state departments are expected with the continued sluggish tax collections of late and the rising cost of healthcare and increases in enrollment in public schools.

In his Jan. 17 State of the State address, Deal said that he proposed funding cuts for programs such as OneGeorgia. The program began with funds from a national tobacco settlement as a way of helping poor, rural communities attract jobs.

Brian Marlowe, the president and CEO of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce, said that OneGeorgia and other economic development programs provide the “deal-closing funds” that fill in the gaps needed to seal the deal on businesses and industries considering locating here.

“The funds pay for a road or water and sewer extensions that are a necessity for some businesses,” Marlowe said. “One of the key points in those budget cuts proposed is, basically, they are cutting the deal-cutting funds, and that puts all communities in Georgia at a competitive disadvantage when we are competing with other states.”

Marlowe said he was disappointed to see the proposed budget cuts to the state department, but “our partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development is very important in the economic development process,” Marlowe said. “We all have been required to survive the last couple of years in an environment where we have to do more with less. I am confident that the department’s leadership will adjust accordingly and continue to partner with communities and other organizations to provide quality support to Georgia’s business and industry sector.”

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