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MARAN: Jobs, mobility top Chamber's '10 priorities

Under the leadership of Chairman Bartow Morgan of Brand Bank, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's top 2010 priorities are a renewed focus on attracting and keeping high-wage jobs, attracting and growing high-growth entrepreneurial firms and small businesses and securing critical funds to address the region's and state's transportation crisis.

In today's economic climate it's no surprise that the Gwinnett Chamber's top priority is to increase efforts nationally and abroad to attract high-wage jobs through our Partnership Gwinnett Economic and Community Development Strategy. We will continue efforts to target businesses in the nation's "Rust belt" communities as well as Europe and Asia, including groundbreaking new marketing efforts targeting the emerging industry clusters of "Serious Gaming" and "Digital Entertainment."

We already have an enviable record of success in economic development where we were recently the only community in the nation to recruit two Fortune 500 global headquarters in less than a year -- NCR from Ohio and Asbury Automotive from New York. Gwinnett has also led the state in job creation since 2000, and despite the current recession more than 115 companies expanded or relocated in Gwinnett since Partnership Gwinnett's launch in 2007, resulting in more than 6,000 new jobs.

A second priority is strengthening Gwinnett and the region's network, culture and resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses through new programs like our Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship. Since its launch a year ago, the council has already assisted more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing their leadership, sales, financial and strategic planning resources. The Chamber also hosted more than 350 business development events attracting a record 35,000 participants in 2009. Small businesses account for 85 percent of our membership, 97.9 percent of all the businesses in Georgia, and employ 46.7 percent of the state's non-farm, private sector workers.

The third priority for the Gwinnett Chamber is to relieve traffic congestion. Since the end of last year's legislative session, the Gwinnett Chamber has been working behind the scenes with leaders in the House and Senate, Georgians for Better Transportation and the Georgia Department of Transportation to work with lawmakers to secure new funding for all modes of transportation.

Due in large part to those quiet negotiations, there is for the first time a consensus among the House, Senate and the Governor to get funding legislation passed. More than 85 percent of Gwinnett-based CEOs and entrepreneurs have told the Chamber in business retention and expansion interviews that transportation is the No. 1 obstacle to their future growth in Georgia. It is time to remove that obstacle and get Georgia moving again.

Creating wealth through job creation. Growing our local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Strengthening our community by reducing traffic congestion. These are just three ways the Gwinnett Chamber will be working for the citizens and businesses of Gwinnett and Metro Atlanta in 2010.

Jim Maran is president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.