Chamber refines local agenda for state capital trip

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Kilgoreites are heading to Austin in late February to bring local issues to the attention of state legislators as part of an East Texas Coalition.

Kilgore Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau President Jill McCartney said the coalition, which includes civic and business leaders from Kilgore, Longview and Tyler, will work to bring legislative focus to regional issues.

“One of the most important things that we are focusing on is the fact that East Texas rallies together to go. It’s not just Kilgore, it is also Longview and Tyler. With our chambers of commerce, when it’s the three of us, we’re a force. We’re the force of East Texas. We go in a group and approach our legislators that way. We also have individual meetings set up,” McCartney said.

McCartney said the chamber compiled a legislative committee made up of their members to hone in on priorities to bring before lawmakers in Austin. The four key priority areas of the chamber’s agenda are Education, Respect Kilgore’s Local Identity, Economic & Workforce Development and Infrastructure.

The presentations will serve a dual purpose. Not only will they bring Kilgore’s concerns before the eyes of lawmakers, they will also help the chamber keep an eye on which legislators actually vote how they say they will.

“We have come up with eight pieces of information that we’ll be presenting to our legislators,” McCartney said. “We have five areas where we’re supporting and three areas where we’re opposing. We have three key issues that we’re really focusing on that we we can press with our legislators and use this as a scorecard with them to see how they do with voting coming up in the legislative session.”

One of the key areas the chamber wants to support in Kilgore are increased career and technical dual-credit educational opportunities for local students. Specifically, McCartney said, the chamber wants to see educational opportunities that directly lead to jobs providing a family-supporting wage.

Chamber members will also oppose any state legislation which may alter Kilgore’s local identity. The chamber wants to support local, existing businesses and industries while also finding new ways for those businesses to grow. The chamber also intends to oppose any attempts to standardize and over-simplify statewide regulations in the Kilgore business community.

Rather than bending Kilgore’s business community to fit overly broad regulations, McCartney and the chamber wants local companies to have freedom to grow.

McCartney said 10 members were making the trip to Austin this year and she hoped more would join for the next trip.

Asked to describe what a successful trip to Austin might look like, McCartney said, “Coming away with the legislators specifically being in front of us, not just an aide. We want to be able to have actual time spent with each of our legislators and also bring them back to Kilgore more often to do some tours of the facilities here, to see some of the great things we have going on here, some of the great national and international companies we have here and making them aware that Kilgore is part of the East Texas business community.”

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