DULUTH -- Acknowledging their side is down in the polls, business leaders held a "pep rally" Thursday to try to drive up support for the upcoming transportation sales tax referendum.
"We're going to make it or break it in the next 12 days and it's all up to us," said Dave Stockert, the CEO of Post Properties who was among a group of business and transportation leaders to speak at a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce forum.
The morning session was packed with tales of the impact of transportation on business, as proponents try to get across the point that the proposed 1 percent sales tax for metro Atlanta could not only improve traffic but draw jobs to the community.
1267 total votes.
From stories of Haverty's Furniture's days at the turn of the century deciding to retire its horses and use trucks to deliver its wares to the decision of Caterpillar Inc. to build an Athens facility, now under construction, that will bring 1,400 jobs, the leaders agreed that not only has transportation played a key role in Atlanta's past successes but in the future of business.
"This election is about transportation. It's about infrastructure. It's about quality of life. It's about opportunities for our children and grandchildren," Mesa Capital Partners chairman Tom Bell said, offering that the July 31 is about much more than a tax. To vote the measure down, he said, "It would be like putting up a big sign on the interstate that says 'closed for business.'"
Despite an $8 million campaign from proponents, Council for Quality Growth President Michael Paris admitted that the short-string, "viral" arguments of various tea party groups and others is winning out, with polls showing waning support for the idea, which could bring in $8.5 billion in the Atlanta region and more than $18 billion across all of Georgia's 12 regions.
But panelists said that could change if business leaders become more vocal, telling their employees, colleagues and others how important the tax would be to them.
"I'm going to continue to encourage my folks to the point of feeling somewhat uncomfortable about this," Stockert said, responding to complaints that some employers have been "heavy-handed" in the issue. "You have to earn the right to complain about traffic from here on out. ... If you believe this is in the best long-term interest of your business and the long-term interest of the region, then say so."
In the next two weeks before the July 31 vote, members of the business community said they have to step up their efforts -- even with ads on television and billboards along the highway -- to make sure people get to the polls.
"This is terribly important. Time is short," said Doug Callaway of the Georgia Transportation Alliance. "We've got to get our act together and pass this."