Local business leaders headed to Atlanta | Local News

A group of Golden Isles business leaders and elected officials will make their annual trip to Atlanta Monday to bring state legislators a list of their priorities for the ongoing General Assembly session.

Ralph Staffins, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, said funding for the expansion of Coastal Pines Technical College is the No. 1 priority the group has going into Atlanta.

Other priorities include supporting local airports, possible tax credits and infrastructure.

Meetings throughout the Atlanta area are planned with state officials from the Department of Transportation, Georgia Power, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the commissioner of technical colleges, and locally elected state officials.

Scott Raynes, the new president and CEO of Southeast Georgia Health System, was introduced at the meeting by his predecessor, Mike Scherneck, who currently serves as the chamber’s chairman.

Raynes said the health system is “the employer of choice” in the region, with an economic impact of more than $749 million in Southeast Georgia.

“It’s an economic driver,” he said.

The most recent surge of COVID-19 peaked several weeks ago in the region, but he expects more variants to emerge.

“We’re seeing a decline, and we’re happy about that,” he said. “We anticipate this not going away. The reality is we’ll have some type of COVID.”

Supply chain issues that plagued hospitals across the nation after the pandemic spread two years ago have been resolved. And Raynes said an arrangement has been made with the College of Coastal Georgia to graduate nurses at a higher rate to meet the demand for more health care workers.

Staffins discussed meetings planned between Brunswick and Glynn County to develop a list of projects the public will support for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum vote in November. Plans include a public education program to explain the benefits of a SPLOST.

Former Chamber Chairman Woody Woodside said a University of Georgia study 10 years ago estimated 64% of the revenue generated from the 1-cent tax is from tourists and motorists from outside Glynn County.

Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said tourism is trending 60 percent higher than last year’s record-setting pace.

“Lodging demand and occupancy are off the charts,” he said. “All indications are we’ll have a record year. Group travel has come back strong. It’s a perfect storm.”

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