At Georgians First Commission, the goal is a state government that works better for small businesses

By David Caraviello

He started with a pickup truck, a shovel, and a toolbox. During his campaign to become governor of Georgia, that message was part of a stump speech that Brian Kemp delivered to emphasize his background as a small business owner. Kemp built spec houses, he and his wife Marty living in each one until the homes sold, the couple moving again and again during those trying first few years before Kemp’s fledgling enterprise finally got off the ground.

So, it should have come as no surprise that small business owners were on Kemp’s mind after he was voted governor in 2018. On his first day in office—immediately following his swearing-in ceremony—he signed an executive order creating the Georgians First Commission. The body’s goal is to eliminate inefficiencies and streamline government, removing some of the barriers that Kemp believes stand in the way of small business innovation and success.

“As a small business owner for over 30 years, I know firsthand how important entrepreneurs and small business people are to our state and local economies,” Kemp told Engineering Georgia. “On the campaign trail, I ran on making Georgia the top state for small business and putting hardworking Georgians first. On my first day in office, the Georgians First Commission was tasked with identifying red tape, fees, taxes, regulations, and rules that make it harder for small businesses to start, expand, or relocate here to Georgia. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our state—and by working together, I know we can make Georgia an even better place to own and operate small businesses.”

In the year since the commission was formed, Kemp has named an executive director—former Georgia House member Scott Hilton—and 18 volunteer commission members, all of them founders or operators of small businesses in the Peach State. Through submissions to the commission’s website and in-person listening sessions, the members will formulate recommendations that will be forwarded to the governor, whose small business background was the impetus for it all.

“Governor Kemp and his wife ran small businesses, so this is birthed out of their experience,” Hilton said. “And really, from the feedback they have received from Georgians across the state, you can tell the importance of it. He got sworn in in January and the Georgians First Commission was the very first executive order he issued, so it’s a priority of his. And he’s been a very active participant with us throughout this process.” READ MORE