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Ronald Reagan said it best when he said, "The state of our transportation system affects our commerce, our economy, and our future." His statement and wisdom ring as true today as it did in 1983.
In a moderately spirited debate, the pros and cons for the Regional Transportation Referendum have been weighed. It's now decision time. And it really comes down to this: Are Gwinnett and metro Atlanta better off with $8.5 billion in transportation improvements or without it? I believe the entire state would be far better off with this investment in our future, and metro Atlanta business owners and job creators couldn't agree more.
Business owners and job creators support the Referendum because they know it will give Gwinnett, metro Atlanta, and the state of Georgia the opportunity to make history by giving a necessary injection to the economic recovery and ensure prosperity for generations to come. Throughout Georgia, business owners and their employees are aligning to make sure we continue on our path of success.
Here's a look at how $8.5 billion can move metro Atlanta's economy forward:
• Metro Atlanta will create or support an additional 200,000 new jobs, including jobs that are maintained year after year. That's 34,000 new jobs in construction alone, allowing us to recoup more than half of the 57,000 construction jobs lost in the recession.
• Metro Atlanta will realize a 4 to 1 return on investment. The $8.5 billion invested will result in a $34.8 billion increase in gross regional product in the Atlanta region by 2040, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.
• Metro Atlantans will save $9.2 billion in travel time costs. The average metro Atlanta consumer spends $924 each year on wasted fuel and non-productive time sitting in traffic.
• Metro Atlantans will realize an $18 billion increase in personal income. With reduced travel time and fuel costs, metro Atlanta incomes will increase a collective $18 billion by 2040.
So, what happens without this $8.5 billion in transportation investment? With the world's busiest international airport, one of the fastest growing seaports in the country, and a Department of Transportation that recently ranked No. 1 nationally in projects delivered on-budget and second in projects delivered on-time -- Georgia is already an incredible place to be. With Gwinnett's numerous assets -- a quality workforce, a world-class education system, and a solid business environment -- Gwinnett will continue to be one of the best places to live and work in the U.S.
In a recent Council for Quality Growth event, Congressman John Mica, when asked what would happen without this investment, replied that the matching federal funds would simply go elsewhere -- likely to one of our competitors. And site selectors would pass on Gwinnett for similar metro areas with better transportation systems and other cities will move forward as we sit still -- in congested traffic. Make no mistake -- the rest of the country is watching this vote.
On Tuesday, Gwinnett County residents will join voters across metro Atlanta in voting on the Regional Transportation Referendum that offers a solution. If approved, the referendum will fund 157 projects, as unanimously agreed upon by a regional roundtable of 21 city and county leaders.
Georgia's path to success is deeply rooted with a history of providing a solid infrastructure for moving people and products. As such, metro Atlanta has become a global economic powerhouse. It's time for Georgia to unite so that we may continue to be recognized globally for our economic capacity. At the polls on Tuesday, ask yourself if we are better off with $8.5 billion in transportation improvements. If you believe we are, then vote yes for the Regional Transportation Referendum and help set the stage for continued economic success.
Jim Maran is President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.