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Challenges create opportunity to shape future
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Most of the time, it takes a crisis or a near crisis situation to concentrate our thinking. It’s amazing what human beings are capable of when faced with big problems. All we know at the time is that we need answers. These answers may not be obvious, but, the industrious people that we are, we go right to work looking for them.
America has faced its share of catastrophes, both large and small, and will again in the future. Forgive me in this age of internationalism, but I believe that Americans have no peers when it comes to tackling big challenges.
The ones we are facing in Georgia as we move into 2008 are serious. Maybe not life threatening, but serious nonetheless. They cry out for answers. Left unsolved, they will limit growth, diminish employment opportunities and set our state back a decade or more. If you love this state as much as I do, you won’t let that happen.
One of the big agenda items in 2008 is water. How could something so benign, something we take for granted, cause such headaches? The short answer is that we have grown as a state and the water supply has not. Thus, we find ourselves embroiled in mini-disputes: state against state, county against county, rural vs. urban and, our old nemesis, north Georgia vs. South Georgia, none of it the least bit productive.
A higher power controls the supply of water in the form of precipitation. As good stewards, our job is to use it wisely and to conserve, which we are doing, voluntarily and otherwise. Is it really a crisis? Not yet, maybe, but it is on the road to becoming one.
The Georgia Chamber is on that same path, committed to avoiding a crisis, working with state and local officials to stay one step ahead of the gloom and doom crowd. As the unified voice of the state’s business community, we knew that a water shortage was looming and that it had the potential to put small businesses at risk. And that a few good rain showers was not the answer.
We needed a strong plan, more of a strategy, if you will, agreed upon by all parties (and there are many), that was fair, equitable and effective. The state Department of Natural Resources produced the first one and I commend them for doing a thoughtful and thorough job.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, representing the state’s business community, was invited to be part of the discussion and we were ready. We had already secured the services of an eminent water professional with hands on experience in situations much ours in Georgia. Doug Meile, a native Australian, has been part of our team for six months and he has been deeply involved in the negotiations, as the representative of Georgia business.
I am confident the plan that surfaces during the upcoming legislative session will be a good one. I expect business to be treated fairly and that the jobs of millions of Georgians will be protected.
One final note on how this happened. More than a year ago, we launched a major fund drive known as The Georgia Initiative, to enable the Georgia Chamber to become more involved in public policy issues. Water was the first project we launched and, though much remains to be done, I already see this as a solid return on our investment. Certainly not just for business, but for every citizen of Georgia.

Israel is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. 

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