After years of membership growth encouraged by a solid policy of economic development, the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce has accepted an invitation to join the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta.
Established in 1997, the RBC is a non-partisan organization made up of 16 Chambers of Commerce from 13 Metro Atlanta counties representing 16,000 member businesses.
While there is a statewide Georgia Chamber of Commerce and a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the RBC was formed to advocate the interests of the business community in an area smaller than the state but also larger than the area covered by the Metro Atlanta chamber.
"They need to be a really strong chamber of commerce and part of the Metro Atlanta region. Their issues need to be part of the Metro issues. They need to have a broad outlook," said Stephen Loftin, executive director of the RBC. "The Newton Chamber has demonstrated all of those qualities."
As a member of the RBC, the Newton Chamber will be represented by four chamber members on the RBC's board of directors.
Those members are Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce President John Boothby, 2008 Newton Chamber Chairman Troy Brooks, Media Task Chairman and 2007 Newton Chamber Chairman Marshall Ginn and AT&T District Manager Paul Chambers.
"We joined because we wanted to have a place at the table when regional decisions are being made," Boothby said. "It's a very active organization and we're really glad to be a part of it. I'm very happy that we're there, it shows that Newton County is considered an important player in the region and our opinions are valued and respected."
Other chambers in the RBC include the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the DeKalb Chamber, the Henry Chamber, the Douglas Chamber and the South Fulton Chamber. According to Loftin, the Conyers/Rockdale County Chamber of Commerce used to be a member of the RBC but left to focus more on growing its own membership.
Loftin said the RBC typically extends one invitation each year to a chamber in the Metro Atlanta region.
"It was just a good natural fit," said Loftin of the decision to invite the Newton chamber to join.
The RBC board of directors, which numbers approximately 50 individuals, meets once a month or once every other month at the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce Boothby said. RBC dues are $3,000 a year for the Newton Chamber.
This year the RBC will be pursuing a legislative agenda focusing on transportation and the statewide water management plan. The RBC is in support of reforming the state's planning and delivery system for road improvement projects with the focus on maximizing efficiency.
The RBC is also urging the legislature to simultaneously address the Georgia Department of Transportation's funding crisis with new funding proposals.
According to the RBC's 2008 Legislative Agenda, though Georgia is the third fastest growing state in the nation, it is dead last for transportation investment on a per capita basis.
"We're very concerned," Boothby said. "If we are investing dead last in the nation, that's going to have a payday. We will get to be poor. It's critical. Some companies are saying that 'we don't want to move to Atlanta because we're hearing how awful the traffic is.'"
For the statewide water management plan, the RBC is urging the adoption of a "fact-based state water plan that focuses on planning for the state's growth in a responsible manner," according to their agenda.
The RBC wants land-use water management decisions to remain with local governments and wants economic growth to remain a priority for the state.