Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan Discuses the State’s Vaccine Rollout and PPP Funding

Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re joined once again by the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, who discusses the all-important PPP funding for small business owners and what the coronavirus vaccine rollout could mean for Georgia’s economy moving forward.

After retiring from his career as a professional baseball player, Duncan and his wife started a successful marketing firm in their living room. Duncan also served as the CEO of a health technology startup. In 2012, He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and authored several important pieces of legislation including The Cargo Theft Act, Michael’s Law, and the Rural Hospital Tax Credit. He now serves as Georgia’s 12th Lieutenant Governor.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hi everyone, Jim Fitzpatrick with the Atlanta Small Business Show. Thanks so much for joining us today. We have got a special guest with us, Lieutenant Governor of the great State of Georgia, Mr. Geoff Duncan. Geoff, thanks so much for joining us on the show today.

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah. Thanks for the opportunity to be with you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So as we know, Governor Kemp and your entire administration there, it was focused on small business when they came in to office. Talk to us about with all of the craziness that’s been taking place with coronavirus and such, and thank God we’ve got a vaccine now, and it looks like things are starting to get back to normal, whatever normal is, give us a state of the small business and where it stands today in Georgia.

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah. Well, great tee-off there for Governor Kemp and myself. Our backgrounds are small business owners. It’s really what we’ve done. And we really campaigned in putting that out there in front of folks, that being a small business owner is kind of the lifeline of hardworking Georgians.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
I don’t think you have to go any further than to really watch how Governor Kemp operated through the initial pieces of the pandemic, trying to get us back open with the balance between lives and livelihoods. And I sat in the office with him a number of days where he looks at the health concerns and conditions and the recommendations made by Dr. Toomey, but he also would look through the lens of what it was to be like a small business owner who was trying to keep folks employed, trying to keep the lights on. Trying to keep products flowing, production. And so, I think it’s a great place to here in Georgia to be a small business owner. But these are difficult times. There’s no doubt about it. Every single business is being stressed and strained in ways they’ve never felt before. And so, as soon as we can get back to normal, I’m all for it. But in the meantime, let’s do the most that we can to balance lives and livelihoods.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And now Georgia has just recently announced that all adults in the State of Georgia are eligible for a vaccine shot, right?

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah, that’s right. I saw Governor Kemp’s announcement and certainly I’m anxious to get there. I’ve not been vaccinated yet. I’m 45 years old. So now it’s my turn and my wife’s turn, and we’re going to jump in line as quick as we can and get vaccinated. A great development. Obviously a year ago this time, we were just trying to figure out what coronavirus was-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
And to think we’ve already got a vaccine. There’s a lot of lessons we’ve learned along the way. I hope we never have to utilize them again in our lifetime. But certainly we are in a better position now to tackle this thing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. We hear so much about small businesses closing in Georgia through 2020. But we also, I read a report that actually a lot of businesses started and got open during 2020. Talk to us about that. Is it possible that there’s a net of a plus jobs, or not jobs, but companies that have opened in Georgia during these last 12 months?

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah, as stunning and as disruptive as COVID was to everybody, the world just really ground to a halt in a moment’s notice, with disruption comes opportunities. And that’s really how most small businesses start.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
The owners or the investors, or a group of people get together and they see an opening or a void that they can fill. And I think that COVID has really done that for us this pandemic. It’s allowed us to see with the execution of innovation and with technology and with certain new needs, home delivery and telehealth, and tele-education and telecommuting and all those different avenues. It’s really the American story of trying to adapt, as disruptive as this period of time is. I do think there are a lot of new companies. And also I think that there are old companies having to adjust.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Geoff Duncan:
There’s new companies coming online. And that’s just part of the process of free markets working.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Geoff Duncan:
And I think it’s also an opportunity for folks to be able to navigate across career platforms. Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Geoff Duncan:
As we watch new jobs being created that maybe need one or two new skills, I think it’s a great opportunity for communities to band together to have a technical school that maybe offers one or two classes on programming or data management. Or soft skills, or things of that nature that could be utilized to allow somebody to take a new career opportunity. [crosstalk 00:04:30] There’s just free markets happening, and we’re right in the midst of it right now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure. Early on, the Kemp Administration really went to work and provided not just funds, but also resources for small business owners to help them through this pandemic. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah. It’s not always money that folks need. I think it’s important to understand that there was regulations that needed to get adjusted. And one of the things Governor Kemp … I think this was a brilliant thought process that he had early on was he said, “I’m doing a lot of these executive orders, removing barriers out of the ways of some of these small businesses that just have to navigate with different rules of engagement because of the pandemic.” He said, “Let’s keep a good running total of some of the regulations that we’re getting positive feedback on that are not disruptive outside of a pandemic.”

Geoff Duncan:
And certainly we’ve continued to do that. I’m one of those folks like Governor Kemp that wants to get as far away from getting in the way of running somebody’s business or getting in their home. We want to sure that those folks feel like they’re able to make their own decisions. So providing resources by removing barriers, I think are really, really ultimately what small business owners want.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Geoff Duncan:
They don’t want somebody telling them how. They’re smart enough to figure it out. Their customers are good enough to tell them when they’re getting it right and when they’re not getting it right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Geoff Duncan:
So we want to make sure we have that continued environment here in the State of Georgia.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. How does Georgia compare to the rest of the country, the other states with regard to small business?

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah. I think one of the key metrics, the one that gets all the headlines is unemployment rates. Georgia continues to track with one of the lowest unemployment rates. I think that’s a healthy statistic. Every way you look at it for a small business owner because it means that your customers have got, hopefully, jobs, high paying quality jobs. Their communities continue to thrive and it creates a competitive workspace.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
So to me, that low unemployment rate is a key indicator for almost everything around the small business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Sure. As you know, here at the Atlanta Small Business Show and the Atlanta Small Business Network, we speak to a number of different business owners and entrepreneurs and such. And it appears as though when you look at different sectors here in Georgia, such as home sales, way, way up both new and pre-owned homes. Home improvement is way up. People are spending more time at their home because of COVID and such. Home Depot and the others are going through the roof trying to keep supplies. Auto sales through the roof. You can’t buy a new car right now because everything’s getting sold out. And of course, they’re dealing with a chip shortage there. But nevertheless, every dealer will report that they’ve had an incredible year in the last 12 months. The RV industry is on fire. Boat sales are up. Do you find this amazing in the middle of a pandemic that you’ve got all of these key industries here in Georgia doing so well?

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah. Who would have thought, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
A year ago this time, we were just, we were all kind of locked in our basements trying to figure out which way was up.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Geoff Duncan:
And so a year later to think about the headwinds and tailwinds, and certainly there are headwinds for certain industries. You mentioned all the ones that have the tailwinds and certainly those are big, big industry players. But if you own a hotel or an airline, or some sort of entertainment facility, or you’ve got a seated restaurant, and it’s finally starting to come back online, you’ve seen challenges. You’ve had to augment your business model to recognize a severe drop off. But with that, I think it is an unbelievable period of time. I’m a worrier by nature.

Geoff Duncan:
I guess that’s probably a key identifier of a small business owner. And one of the things I worry about is that things get over overheated, right? I’m one of those folks that were, I was a business owner in ’07 when things were kind of out of skewed a little bit.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
So we want to make sure. This is an unbelievable period of time. One of the things that I wrestle with is, we talked a lot about federal stimulus. And there’s a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus plan that’s being rolled out and checks are being given all over the country.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Geoff Duncan:
And certainly there are folks receiving those checks. It is a lifeline of a much, much needed consequence for them.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Geoff Duncan:
But also look at this as a period of time where almost every asset classes is at all-time record highs. We’ve got home prices and home sales and automobiles, all of these key metrics, stock market that are really, really raging right now-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Geoff Duncan:
I worry about how much we need to stimulate, right. And how much we need to just let the free market principles allow us to ebb and flow our way through this. Now the vaccine is in place. It is a lot less scarier world to have to navigate.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, no question about it. As Lieutenant Governor of the State of Georgia, what are some of the other things that keep you up at night with regard to the things that might be lurking on the horizon and small business owners may need to be aware of?

Geoff Duncan:
Yeah, I think that the thing I want small business owners to know is that their State Georgia Governor, their Georgia State government is working hard for them.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
We do have a bunch of folks that are small business minded and understand that the trials and tribulations of doing that. We continue to invest in education. It is the greatest investment in future talent we can possibly do. We continue to make sure that infrastructure is a strong play for us as we watch our ports continue to just put on display record growing numbers. Our transportation system, in and around the Metro areas needs to be ready to go when this pandemic is behind us.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Geoff Duncan:
Healthcare is a big deal. Just imagine if you’re a small business trying to grow in a rural part of the state and your hospitals going away, that’s a problem. And so we continue to make sound investments in our healthcare system here in Georgia. We’re working hard. We work for 11 million Georgians and I continue to see us be that shining city on the side of the Hill, in this country and other companies and other states continue to try to model what we’re doing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I’m going to leave it at that because no truer words have been said. And I love what you guys are doing, especially for small business owners out there. You’re fighting the good fight every day. It’s great to have an administration that’s focused so much on growing small business here in Georgia. So Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan, thank you so much for joining us here on the show. I know our viewers and our subscribers will get a lot out of your visit with us today. So thank you.

Geoff Duncan:
Great to see you again and thanks for the opportunity.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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