Every year, the Camden County Chamber of Commerce leads a group of local leaders to Atlanta to bring Camden County’s message to the state’s legislators and policy makers. It’s something they do to keep Camden on the state’s legislative radar, said Amy Hendricks, president and CEO. Good representation and communication are the only way to bridge the distance between the southeast corner of Georgia and the state capitol, she said. “One of the representatives told me there is no other group that is as well organized and tells their story as well as we do,” said Joel Hanner, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors. “It really just proves how the community comes together to speak to legislators with one voice.”
The “big ask” during this year’s trip, held Jan. 24-26, was $17.1 million to construct the Kingsland campus of Coastal Pines Technical College. Sheila McNeill, representing The Camden Partnership, pointed out to legislators that Camden County is the only military community in Georgia without a tech college as she briefed them about the Ohio submarine replacement program. Although this is a federal defense program, the new class of submarines has implications for Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Camden and a local technical college campus is needed to train the workers who service that program. A local technical college campus has been at the top of Camden’s wish list for several years. Last year, the state budgeted funds for the preliminary design work and the chamber delegation sought a continuation of that project. “The Camden chamber is committed to continuing the effort to attain a brick and mortar technical college facility in Camden County. Along with partnering with Coastal Pines Technical College, accomplishing that goal will need to coincide with potential projects on the horizon like redevelopment of the Gilman/Durango Mill property, spaceport and other development sought by the Joint Development Authority,” said a press release issued by the chamber.
Several other projects, noted above, got a mention in Atlanta as well. Shannon Nettles, representing the Camden County Board of Commissioners, explained Camden’s spaceport initiative. St. Marys City Council member Dave Riley urged support for the Georgia Coastal Greenway. St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey asked legislators to prioritize Exit 1 improvements due to the need for better safety and to establish facilities that are more comparable to Florida’s welcome sites. “As with most challenges, ‘action’ and subsequent results can be a slow and strenuous process,” Hendricks added. She said they began by asking chamber members to share challenges that need to be addressed through legislative action at the state level. As issues were prioritized and bubbled to the top, white papers were prepared on selected topics, she said. Once collected and compiled into a booklet, the team prepares talking points and a list of legislators and organizations to visit that will fit into a busy three-day itinerary, Hendricks said.
The documents are available for public inspection by contacting Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org. During the trip, Camden County representatives met with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Secretary of State Brian Kemp; House Speaker David Ralston; Sen. Bruce Thompson, science and technology chair; Rep. Earl Ehrhart, higher education and appropriations subcommittee chair; Rep. Terry England, House appropriations chair; Sen. Jack Hill, Senate appropriations chair; and Rep. Dave Belton, military affairs working committee chair.