Monday, November 30, 2009

A Record Year Despite the Challenges

As we head into the holiday season and wrap up 2009, there are many achievements that we at the Gwinnett Chamber are thankful for. Most importantly we are thankful for you, our members, whose countless volunteer hours and continued financial support have helped your Chamber and Gwinnett make some very impressive headlines in 2009. I wanted to share some of our highlights with you.

For starters, thanks to Partnership Gwinnett's Economic and Community Development Strategy, we shocked the world by becoming the only community in the U.S. to recruit two Fortune 500 Corporate Headquarters in less than a year: NCR from Ohio and Asbury Automotive from New York. These were just the highest profile project wins from more than 115 expansions and relocation's yielding 6,200 jobs since the launch of Partnership Gwinnett in 2007. Successful recruiting trips to Asia and Europe and our historic partnership with the State to attract businesses from the Gaming and Digital Entertainment clusters have earned us honors and recognition in Georgia and abroad. Our brand has never been stronger, thus positioning us for even stronger long-term, high-way job creation.

To ensure Gwinnett and the Metro Atlanta region remain strong, we also successfully lobbied for a number of legislative actions to strengthen our community. These included enhancing statewide tax credit incentives for strategic industries that allowed us to attract NCR and reauthorizing tax allocation districts to revitalize blighted neighborhoods in southern Gwinnett. We rallied business community support to pressure Emory and Piedmont Hospitals to drop their lawsuits against Gwinnett Medical Center's open heart surgery program, thus saving countless lives. To support education, we launched mentoring programs in middle schools for at-risk students; helped secure more than $500,000 in grants for the creation of a Bio Science Career Path (with lab equipment) in our high schools; and expanded work-based apprenticeship programs in Gwinnett County Public Schools and Gwinnett Technical College. Encouraging our public partners to invest in a strong quality of life creates an environment that stimulates job creation.

To help our members grow their businesses and be as competitive as possible in today's challenging market conditions, we hosted a record 320 networking and business development events attended by more than 35,000 participants this year. We also launched the region's first comprehensive entrepreneurial development initiative, the Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship, attracting more growth companies that collectively employ 2,765 people with aggregate revenues of $690 million. Our Diversity Supplier Forums directly assisted 37 minority ad women-owned business owners in obtaining contracts from government agencies and private employers. And more than 500 new companies joined the Chamber in 2009, meaning greater partnership opportunities for you.

The Chamber's goals are simple. Creating jobs and wealth. Strengthening our communities. Growing your business. With your support, successes in these areas will remain strong in 2010 and beyond. Happy Holidays.

By Jim Maran

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