Photo by Curt Yeomans
Several state representatives from the Clayton County Legislative Delegation gathered on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives on Tuesday to recognize business leaders from the county, as part of “Clayton County Chamber of Commerce Day” at the state Capitol.
Roughly 40 Clayton County business and municipal leaders traveled to the State Capitol building in Atlanta on Tuesday to build new bridges of cooperation with the county’s legislative delegation.
The visiting leaders got to watch the Georgia House of Representatives in action, from a gallery hanging over the legislative body’s meeting chamber. While they were there, they received loud applause from representatives from across the state, when the Clayton legislators recognized their guests from the chamber floor during the House’s “Morning Call.”
Afterward, the business leaders had lunch with the Clayton County Legislative Delegation, and discussed their concerns about issues facing the county.
It was “Clayton County Chamber of Commerce Day” at the State Capitol.
“The more often we get to showcase the good, and the talented [in the county], it’s better for us,” said State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), the chairperson of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation.
Tuesday was, on the surface, intended to be a day to put a spotlight on the county under the “Gold Dome” of the state Capitol, but it had a deeper purpose — the legislative delegation and the Chamber of Commerce re-connecting with each other.
“What we do now in Clayton County is good, and what we will continue to do will be better,” said Clayton State University President Tim Hynes, the chairperson of the chamber’s governmental affairs committee.
Leaders in the legislative delegation, and the Chamber of Commerce, said the day was the beginning — of sorts — of an effort to build stronger ties between the county’s business community, and the people who represent the county in the state’s government.
There had been some groundwork already laid out, with members of the delegation meeting with chamber leaders late last year, to get a sense of what community issues the business leaders wanted to see addressed in the General Assembly. The chamber has also set out to revive, and reorganize, its governmental affairs committee under Hynes’ leadership.
“Our members are interested in what goes on in the legislature, and they want to be a part of making sure Clayton County’s issues are represented here at the State Capitol,” said Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President Yulonda Beaufort.
The committee will receive legislative concerns from Chamber of Commerce members, and chamber leaders will then work with local legislators to devise ways to address those issues in the General Assembly, according to Beaufort.
The chamber president told legislators, during their lunch-time meeting, that business leaders will likely begin bringing specific legislative requests to the Clayton County delegation just before the beginning of the 2013 legislative session.
Some of the issues chamber members brought up during the luncheon included technical college education opportunities, the way the county is viewed across the rest of the state, and how the county can leverage, to its advantage, the fact that it is home to most of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Beaufort added the next step for both sides will be to work together to maintain a “close relationship.” That means having regular meetings between the two groups — even when the General Assembly is not in session. Abdul-Salaam said the delegation is also looking to partner with the Chamber of Commerce, and other officials in the county to host a joint economic summit in the future.
“But, the next step is to stay connected, and keep communicating with each other,” the state representative said. “We’ve got to keep talking to each other.”
Part of the effort to continue building the relationship between Clayton’s legislators, and its business leaders will also include holding more “Clayton County Chamber of Commerce Days” at the Capitol every year in the future, according to Beaufort. Tuesday was just “the first of many” such Clayton County-specific days that are planned to be held at the State Capitol, the chamber president pledged.
“We’re hoping to grow this event,” she said. “Next year, I’m hoping to have 40-plus people in attendance. I’m hoping we’ll need a bigger room to meet in, so the business community will see this is very important. They need to know our legislators, and our legislators need to know us, and so we’ve got to do relationship building.”
Abdul-Salaam, who came up with the idea of having this year’s Clayton-specific day at the Capitol, said she was pleased with the way it turned out. She said State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro) worked with chamber leaders to organize the event, at her request, and it even got corporate sponsorships from AT&T and Georgia Power.
“It was just awesome,” she said. “We had a lot of people show up, and we got a lot of feedback, as well.”