A strong economy locally and nationally was the central focus of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual congressional luncheon in Macon.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao spoke of streamlined regulations, a focus on rural America and the combination of what she called "pro-growth policies and investments with American ingenuity and initiative" that has boosted the economy, while U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) touched on ways Georgia's economy could serve as a model across the country.
With appearances from Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop and Republican Reps. Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, Rick Allen, Jody Hice and Austin Scott, the annual event was an opportunity for business and community leaders across the state to hear about federal problems and solutions that affect business at the state and local level.
Chao, who also served as labor secretary from 2001-2009, started off her remarks by saying the economy is "doing great."
"The U.S. economy grew 2.8% in the first half of 2019, the national unemployment rate of 3.7% is about the lowest in 50 years and businesses have added more than 6 million jobs since the 2016 election," she said.
Chao also said streamlining government regulations and red tape while keeping safety and the environment has been at the forefront.
A topical Georgia example was the March 2017 I-85 bridge collapse. The secretary said her department fast-tracked approvals and helped the Georgia Department of Transportation begin work as soon as possible.
"As a result, the bridge was replaced in only 43 days," Chao said. "As President Trump loves to hear... ahead of schedule and below budget!"
Perdue also mentioned Savannah's ports as a "poster child" of successful infrastructure investment, recalling a conversation he had with Trump shortly after his inauguration.
"We've been trying to deepen [the harbor for] 20 years, he couldn't believe that," Perdue said. "But because of Secretary Chao and President Trump, I'm proud to tell you that we now are looking at the third straight year of full funding for the port of Savannah, and we're looking for completion by 2022."
The first-term senator, who is up for re-election, thanked Chao for her work helping the I-85 reconstruction effort, and said that he believed transportation in the country will become something "truly spectacular."
Following the lunch, two panels on infrastructure and cybersecurity were open to attendees but not the media.