Coalition gets new member
Chamber joins group

COVINGTON - The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has joined the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta, a nonpartisan, nonprofit consortium of 16 chambers of commerce representing 13 counties and more than 16,000 businesses.

The coalition acts as an advocate for businesses and chambers on problems affecting the region and this year is focused on transportation and water issues, according to Covington-Newton County Chamber President John Boothby.

"By coming together and speaking with one voice, we can get (lawmakers') attention," Boothby said, adding that officials attending a recent coalition retreat included U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, and State House Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter.

"We can get their attention when we say we want you to come talk to our board of directors that represents 16,000 businesses," he said. "They'll clear their calendars as soon as possible. That's the big stick we carry."

Along with Boothby, three other Newton County representatives serve on the coalition's board of directors: 2007 Chamber Chairman Marshall Ginn, 2008 Chairman Troy Brooks and Paul Chambers of AT&T.

Though the local chamber signed on to join the coalition in 2008, representatives have been attending meetings for the past few months, Boothby said.

The board of directors will soon adopt its legislative agenda for the 2008 session, which Chairman Stephen Loftin will lobby for at the state capitol, Boothby said.

Regarding transportation, "we support any legislation to improve project delivery and enhance funding. That's the focus, to get more dollars to the region ... We actually favor a regional equivalent of SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax)," Boothby said.

Boothby said the coalition will support a state water plan that "focuses on planning for the state's growth in a responsible manner."

Chambers that are a part of the coalition must pay yearly dues determined by membership size. The local chamber will pay $3,000 per year, Boothby said, adding the chamber's board of directors is looking at ways to recoup that money.

"We have two choices, to join the RBC or not join it. If we didn't join it, we would be turning our backs on an opportunity to take part in the process," he said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.