A key part of the Georgia Forestry Association’s mission is focused on advocating for forestry businesses at the state and federal level. Our success is largely dependent on our ability to come together with one voice.
Once a year, we gather as a membership at the Georgia State Capitol for Forestry Day, an opportunity to increase our impact by connecting our members directly with the highest-level political leaders and decision makers in the state. This year’s event was a tremendous success, with dozens of forestry leaders and state lawmakers gathering together to learn more about and support our industry.
The event kicked off at the Georgia State Capitol, where GFA emerging leaders and members of Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry gathered for a quick Chick-fil-A breakfast and a photo-op with Smokey the Bear. Attendees had the opportunity to mingle and meet with fellow industry professionals as well as state legislators, who dropped by to share in the biscuits and banter. [PHOTO 1]
Shortly following the breakfast, the group moved inside to hear from two forestry advocates in the state legislature. Senator Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) and Representative David Huddleston (R-Roopville) discussed their roles and daily life in the legislature and how they got there, providing words of wisdom to those in the crowd with lawmaking ambitions. Both Watson and Huddleston sang the praises of the forestry industry and its crucial role in the state in terms of both the economy and environment, relating their own experiences growing up and working in agriculture to that of the leaders in attendance. After hearing from the legislators, the group then took a tour of the Capitol, making pit stops at the House and Senate chambers as well as the Governor’s offices. [PHOTOS 2&3]
After exploring the Capitol, the group rejoined the full GFA membership in the Grand Ballroom at the Georgian Terrace Hotel just a few blocks away for lunch and to hear from local economists, industry leaders and legislators. Every seat in the room was full as the experts took the stage. [PHOTOS 4&5]
The first listening session featured an economic outlook for the forestry industry and markets headlined by Dr. Roger C. Tutterow, Professor of Economics at Kennesaw State University, and Amanda Hamsley Lang, COO and vice president of client services at Forisk, both of whom laid out a strong future for the industry economy. [PHOTO 6]
The optimistic economic outlook was followed by a presentation on the foreign ownership of land and its impact on forestry. The panel was headlined by Jody Strickland, chief business officer at F&W Forestry Services, State Senator Russ Goodman, and David Bergvall, associate director of environment and policy at Manulife Investment Management, who joined virtually. With increasing attention on the success of the industry in the state of Georgia both nationally and internationally, the panel assured the room that while foreign investment is sure to come, there is no need to fear that private landowners here in Georgia will be pushed out. [PHOTO 7]
The final session closed the day with a discussion on the future of housing affordability and the state’s housing economy led by Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and John Hunt, chief analyst and principal of MarketNsight. With only a couple of hours of sunlight left, the event moved to its final venue of the day at the Georgia Freight Depot for the legislative reception, where association members gathered together with state lawmakers for hors d’oeuvres and refreshments. Dozens of state legislators and elected officials were in attendance, taking time to meet GFA members and hear from them on issues affecting them in the industry. [PHOTOS 8&9]
GFA President Andres Villegas was one of the first to greet Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones as he joined the crowd. Jones was one of several leading Georgia politicians to speak at the reception, joined by Governor Brian Kemp, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper and State Senate President Pro Tempore John Kennedy. [PHOTO 10]
Agriculture Commissioner Harper took a moment to chat with GFA members and other attendees, snapping a few pictures along the way. [PHOTO 11]
Governor Brian Kemp took the stage to champion the state’s robust economy and the growth and success of the forestry industry. As of 2020, the industry accounts for $39.1 billion in overall economic impact in the state and accounts for the direct or indirect employment of over 140,000 people in the state. [PHOTO 12] ■
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