By Sarah Wibell
“It didn’t just happen.” This sentiment referencing the growing local economy and business environment was reiterated by Chamber President Bob Hughes and Congressman Jody Hice during the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce 65th Annual Meeting at Empire Mills on Thursday, June 13. The Chamber of Commerce seeks to “promote a suitable climate for quality economic development in all its forms; industrial, commercial, agricultural, institutional and residential,” according to their website. During the meeting, Excellence in Government Awards were presented to Morgan County and the City of Madison.
“It takes a lot of hard work, and that’s one of the things we want to take away from this, that our leadership – whether it was elected or working behind the scenes – has been instrumental in shaping who we are and what we are today,” Hughes stated. He noted a number of positive changes in the community including the implementation of the new high school and middle school campus, Morgan County College and Career Academy, Morgan Medical Center, Stanton Springs and the Joint Development Authority, Parks and Recreation Services, and the Georgia Safari & Conservation Park.
“Our program tonight will include recognition of those that have made the tough decisions that resulted in what we have today,” Hughes explained. “Our challenge going forward is to go ahead and make those tough decisions today that future generations will be able to benefit from. If we don’t plan now, if we don’t institute now, it won’t happen.”
Congressman Hice shared his perspective with Chamber members: “I know there’re a lot of issues happening in our country that impact locally. I will say that you are in a prime position, and the leadership that you have in this city and this county is really second to none. You’ve got a great team that’s doing a phenomenal job and you combine that with things that are happening just in Georgia – as you well know, the number one state in the nation for which to do business now for several years consecutively … I think more than at any other time in my lifetime, what we’re seeing economically is spectacular. Dave Belton and our general assembly … have done a great job helping give us an environment for that to take place.”
Hice added that the tax cut bill passed during the last term in Washington (D.C.) “has generated more income for both individuals and corporations. And that combined with reduction of regulations has just been a perfect fit to reignite the greatest economic engine in the history of the world, and we are seeing it right here across the board.” He noted that when the American free enterprise system is allowed to do what it does best, which is creating jobs and opportunity, being innovative and creatively starting things, socialism cannot compete. Referencing the economic boom over the last two and a half years, record low unemployment, and the fact that over five million people in the country have come off food stamps in the last two years, Hice asserted, “When that environment is in place … it lifts everyone up. It doesn’t suppress. Everyone is lifted to a higher standard of living.”
Hughes remarked, “If you drive around Georgia, I promise you will not see any other city, regardless of its size, that boasts cleaner streets and the appearance of being cheerful than we have … The visual impact of our county is often taken for granted, because we are so used to having everything just so. It just looks like it does. Businesses in town are amazed that we are as clean and orderly as we are. It didn’t just happen. So, when you’re out on the street and see city crews out there working, take a minute to thank them for what they’re doing …
“Our gateway projects that are turning derelict areas (into revitalized) neighborhoods didn’t just happen. Our creative ways to turn the school board into a focal point that visitors and locals are both going to be able to enjoy is another example of the forward thinking. We also have local city parks scattered around town with plans to supplement our extensive walking trails … Many other communities come to Madison to learn how we do it. It didn’t just happen.”
Accepting the award for the county, County Commission Vice Chair Phillip Von Hanstein recognized predecessors and thanked the Chamber for the award adding, “I also want to thank the city for working together with the county; divided we fall, together we stand. We have a lot of opportunity to make this place a great place.”
Mayor Fred Perriman accepted the award for the City of Madison. He noted, “We’re standing on the shoulders of those great heroes who came before us. They had a vision, and today we’re standing on the vision they foresaw many, many years ago. And when we’re gone, we hope that the younger generation will stand on our vision.
“It’s great to be a part of a community where we see love, we see actions, and we see that respect. It’s great to be a part of a community that sees needs and that cater to those needs. And it’s great to be a part of a community where we all share and share alike together, because I believe Madison stands because together we all stand, and if one falls, we all fall. We’ll continue to build upon the shoulders for our state, for our nation, for our city, for our town. It’s not for us. It’s for you that it’s worth it.”
The Chamber also recognized and thanked outgoing directors of their board: Mandi Martin (moving to past chair), Cathy Hale, Steven McClain, Joe Cardwell, and Mark Cheshire. Merritt Ainslie, Kristin Higgins, and Bob Bell were recognized as incoming directors.