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Newly-elected U.S. Congressman Tom Graves (center) stands Thursday with County Executive Ted Rumley (left) and local entrepreneur Wes Hixson, whom he named as members of his Economic Advisory Council.

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Staff Reporter


Newly-elected U.S. Congressman Tom Graves made Dade the first stop of an inaugural tour last week of his Ninth District, a 15-county sweep in which he hopes to organize a network of business and civic leaders allied in a push for economic development.

“Job creation is going to be our number-one priority as your next congressman,” the 40-year-old Republican told a group of county officials and press representatives assembled Thursday morning at Trenton City Hall.  “You’re going to see my perspective is different from what has been happening in Washington.  I want to see the private sector expand, not the governmental sector expand.”

To that end, Graves announced the creation of his Economic Advisory Council, comprised of representatives from each county who will meet quarterly to discuss ideas for job growth. In Dade’s case, he named to the Council County Executive Ted Rumley and local entrepreneurs Reece Bolton and Wes Hixson.

Bolton runs an equipment sales company in Chattanooga. Hixson, who lives in Wildwood, organizes excursion travel abroad. “Wes Hixson is a great business leader and a strong advocate for free markets and capitalism,” said Graves. 

Dade’s representative to the Georgia House, Martin Scott, will also participate, said Graves, and the Council will be chaired by Georgia Senator Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville), who has been serving as chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee. 

Pearson is not seeking reelection to the Georgia Senate this year, having withdrawn his candidacy this spring amid conflict-of-interests questions raised by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding legislation he sponsored in relation to a consulting firm in which he is a partner.

Pearson also spoke to the Dade audience about economic development, stressing the importance of small businesses, which he said creates 95 percent of the new jobs in Georgia.  Where, he asked, are those businesses now? “They’re scared to hire anybody,” he said. “They’re scared to borrow money, even if they can, which is very, very difficult. And they’re absolutely terrified about the elimination of some of those tax cuts, and furthermore they’re afraid of regulation that inevitably comes down year after year from Washington and to some degree from Atlanta.”

Graves, said Pearson, wants to change all that, turning the environment into one more conducive to business. “He is truly a grassroots type of guy,” said Pearson of Graves. “He understands that it has to bubble up from the bottom to the top for it to have a firm foundation and be something that will stand.  From the top down never works because when the top loses focus everything else goes away.”

Graves spoke in general of his plans – “We’re going to begin crafting legislation that will be legislation that is pro-job growth through the private sector and the expansion of the private sector”  – and in specific of an idea for allowing 100-percent depreciation on capital assets the first year. “We know that when capital investment is increased, then that starts that economy moving again,” he said. 

Bailouts and buyouts haven’t worked, said Graves, and government must be gotten out of the way if business is to save the economy. “I want to empower the taxpayer, not empower government,” he said. “So that is a paradigm shift from what we’ve seen in Washington.”   

Graves won his place in the U.S. House for a scant six months in a special election following the resignation of incumbent Nathan Deal, who relinquished it in order to run for governor. Now the new congressman must establish himself in his seat even as he campaigns to keep it in this year’s regular election. He faces several Republican contenders in the July 20 primary.

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