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Work Force Development

City, Chamber Pushed for BIG Projects, More Lending in Report to President

By Lou Phelps

 

Mar. 2, 2010 - On Monday, the day before President Obama’s visit to Savannah, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Otis Johnson organized an invitation only meeting of local business leaders to devise a report on what business needed in Savannah, particularly small businesses which comprise the vast majority of the local business community – and the membership of the Chamber.

 

For Ray Gaster, president of Gaster Lumber who was an invitee to the event, the final report missed the mark entirely, with those in charge of the meeting asking the President for funding for big projects, in his opinion, such as the Savannah Harbor deepening, high-speed rail and a high-tech center at Savannah’s “Super-Site” on Rt. 16.

 

“Half of us in that room will be gone within a year if they don’t create jobs and get customers coming in our doors soon,” said Gaster.

 

“Yesterday, the Mayor had a supposedly ‘Whitehouse Small Biz Forum’ to get ideas from small/independent businesses on what was needed,” said Gaster. “Unfortunately, the final short item draft was determined by the bureaucrats and amounted to basically "Mo Money" for large projects like deepening Savannah harbor and high speed rail to Atlanta. Like that is going to have an immediate impact on what mainstreet is going through these days. 

 

“I doubt if the message is getting through. But we all have to keep after them, or replace them with new people,” said Gaster, who said he was looking forward to more information on the Homestar program the President spoke about today at Savannah Technical College.

 

The report clearly asked for changes in bank regulations to increase lending to small businesses, and pushed for funding of programs already devised such as shovel ready infrastructure projects the City would like to get underway.

 

Here’s the complete text of the report given to the President today:

 

March 1, 2010

 

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

Today, the City of Savannah in partnership with the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce convened thirty-three members of our small business community to discuss issues related to our local economy.   Our discussion was shaped by questions provided in the “Community Jobs Forum: Host Guide for Public Officials”.  It was productive and provided insight into the many issues facing Savannah business owners and operators.   While there was not a ridged system for prioritizing the concerns that manifested from the discussion, the consensus of the group are organized in three primary areas:

 

ACCESS TO CAPITAL

A.  Representatives of the banking community expressed a desire to receive an allocation of TARP Funds specifically for small business lending.  This could be offered below the 5% threshold.  The local banks would like to advocate for eliminating the regulatory constraints in lending along with supporting an extension of the SBA Loan Guarantee Program. The provision of 90% recently reverted back to 80%.

B.  Increasing the SBA ARC Program lending limits from $35,000 to $100,000.

C.  Creation of an equity investment program administered through local government, CDCs and CDFIs.

D.  Create tax credits for equity investments in small business ventures.

E.  Develop a waiver of tax penalties for small business owners who may withdraw funds from retirement accounts for use in the business.

F.  Offer accelerated depreciation for capital investments.

G.  Consider applying Public Law 95-507 to federal stimulus projects.

 

 

STIMULUS FUNDING FOR PROJECTS

 

The City of Savannah requests that funding for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, which have been approved, be released.   Currently, the state’s financial condition has impeded Savannah’s ability to get allocated monies here to fund projects. 

 

 

SMALL BUSINESS CAPICITY BUILDING & LOCAL PROJECTS

 

A.  Savannah’s business community would like to benefit from the “Jobs for Mainstreet Act 2010”.

B.  Savannah would like to receive funding from the $250 million set aside to fund small business incubators in disadvantaged communities.

C.  The Savannah River needs to be deepened to allow our ports to receive larger ships into our Port (4th largest container port in the US).

D.  Savannah’s business representatives would like funding restored for the development of a high speed rail system from Charlotte, N.C. to Atlanta, GA. to Savannah, GA and cities to the south.

E.  Savannah wants to capitalize on local resources to create systems for reusable energy research and development.

F.  The City of Savannah would like funding for our community’s Promise Neighborhood Initiative.

G.  Incentives for the creation of Green Empowerment Zone to encourage and development.

 

The City of Savannah is the second largest city in Georgia and attracts thousands of tourists annually from around the world. The issues presented here are critical to our local economy’s sustainability and to the State of Georgia.  Even though the City of Savannah’s unemployment numbers are low relative to the state and the country, we cannot maintain our economic position without your support.

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