WASHINGTON – A new video released today and a recent Atlanta Business Chronicle article highlight the legacy and impact of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on Georgia’s economy as the longtime businessman prepares to leave the Senate on Dec. 31. Applying the lessons learned throughout his 33-year real estate career, Isakson has aided Georgia communities during his 45 years in public service through planned development and by protecting Georgia’s transportation, energy and water interests, as well as job creators and employees.
On Monday, the Georgia Economic Developers Association announced Isakson as the recipient of the Governor Zell Miller Public Policy Leadership Award at its awards luncheon. On Nov. 8, Isakson was honored by the Atlanta Regional Commission for a lifetime of public service and the lasting impact he leaves behind at the organization’s State of the Region breakfast.
Using his business acumen to benefit Georgians
In a video highlighting Isakson’s contributions to the state, Isakson says that real estate was the perfect training ground for politics, “because in real estate, you’re causing a buyer and a seller agree to a price on a house or a piece of land… and make a transaction and make a deal.”
Isakson put his business acumen and penchant for relationship building to use in Washington to lead major initiatives and solve economic problems.
“With so many things through the years, Johnny’s been behind the scenes and that’s how he works. He’s more likely to say little but work hard behind the scenes to connect people and move progress for the region. That’s just how he worked,” said Atlanta Regional Commission Executive Director Douglas Hooker in a Nov. 8 Atlanta Business Chronicle article.
The article, “Sen. Johnny Isakson started in politics trying to fix neighborhood zoning,” outlines Isakson’s entry into public service and subsequent success in both the real estate business and public service on the local, state and federal levels.
“I really enjoyed working with my neighbors and trying to work with the county commission and cause a good thing to happen rather than just get into a blood fight. It kind of was infectious,” Isakson said in the article.
Advocating for responsible budgeting
“[Isakson is] an unmatched salesman, whether you are selling homes, or ideas or legislation,” said U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who has served with Isakson on the Finance Committee and as chairman of the Budget Committee.
Isakson has introduced biennial budgeting legislation to end reckless spending and reform the federal budget process with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act would convert the budget process to a two-year cycle, with one year for appropriating federal dollars and the other year devoted to much-needed oversight of federal programs.
“As a former businessman, he knows how important it is that we have budgets that work, not just for the government, but for everybody that is working with the federal government,” said Shaheen.
Fighting for Georgia’s ports
Georgia’s ports have been a key to Georgia’s business success, and Isakson has consistently led efforts to support the ports on Georgia’s coast and inland.
“I can’t overstate, number 1, the impact of the ports to our economy,” said former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., in the video. “They are in excess of 350,000 jobs in Georgia that are generated as a result of the activity going on at the port in Savannah and the port in Brunswick.”
The ports of Savannah and Brunswick have particularly benefitted from Isakson’s leadership. Isakson has worked with nominees seeking Senate confirmation to key federal positions to ensure they understand the importance of Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. He brought then-Vice President Joe Biden to the site and has pursued every possible legislative angle to ensure the completion of this project, which is critical to Georgia, the Southeast and the entire country.
“[Isakson] fought for that when he was in the House and the then the Senate. I mean, he has been doing this for 20 years. I’m new to the fight, but when I was on that Port Authority, I knew what kind of return investment it had,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. “It was over seven to one. Johnny’s been tireless about that, as he has been about so many other things in the state. Laying the groundwork for that, and really drove that tirelessly until we finally got approval for the funding that will get that thing done now.”
The Atlanta Business Chronicle article also quotes Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch, saying, “Sen. Isakson has always been a stalwart of support for our ports and economic development —whether that support was in terms of project funding, legislative action or as a mediator. … His steady leadership and coalition-building ability have been key to strengthening American competitiveness in global trade, reducing unnecessary regulation and opening new markets for key Georgia commodities.”
Saving Delta employees’ retirement
Delta Air Lines Inc. credits Isakson’s work on the 2006 Pension Protection Act at a key moment for saving the pensions of tens of thousands of employees in Georgia alone.
In the video, Isakson’s former chief of staff Heath Garrett explains, “The Wall Street Journal called Johnny Isakson ‘the senator from Delta.’ He wears that as a badge of honor because he got in and fought for his hometown airline in a way that not only saved the pension for those employees, but essentially made Atlanta the hub for the greatest airline in the world today.”
“That is probably the most important thing I ever did,” Isakson said in the Nov. 8 article. “It was a short timeframe to do it. It involved the whole country, yet Delta would swing in the balance of how we decided. …We were down to the last 24 hours and if we didn’t get it done, Delta would have gone into a structured bankruptcy, the pension would have been lost and I don’t think they’d be here today.”
In the video, Isakson continued, “When I looked up and saw the eyes of those flight attendants, when that vote was posted and they realized that we passed that amendment, and they realized that that was going to give them a chance, a chance, to get the pension they worked for all their lives, I’ve never had a better feeling in all my life.”
In addition to his legacy on specific projects, the article includes details of the businessman’s perspective Isakson provided as a member of the Senate Finance Committee where he helped lead the drafting and successful passage of H.R.1, the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. It overhauled America’s outdated federal tax code, put more money in the pockets of American families and made America an attractive place for domestic and international businesses.
The article and video also highlight Isakson’s successful efforts to:
- Deliver the legislation in Georgia to begin construction of Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Georgia, where the first two nuclear reactor units were completed in 1987 and 1989 to deliver clean, safe, reliable nuclear power. Today, construction continues on nuclear reactors 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle thanks to Isakson’s 2018 effort to extend a federal tax credit for nuclear production to support the only nuclear power reactors under construction in the country.
- Pass and create Community Improvement Districts in Georgia as a member of the Georgia General Assembly. This textbook example demonstrates how Isakson promoted the partnership of government to aid in local economic development and stimulate both private and public investment.
- Ensure that Georgia’s surface and air transportation needs were met by the federal government, including leading the effort to secure authorization and funding to build a fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
- Defend Georgia’s water rights in the decades-old water wars between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, secure the update of water control manuals, hold hearings in Georgia with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and successfully block legislation that would have allowed federal intervention in the matter while negotiations and court cases were ongoing.
Isakson has served for 45 years in public service. He holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to have been elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. In addition, in 2016 he became the first Georgia Republican ever to be elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Isakson began his business career in 1967 when he opened the first Cobb County office of a small, family-owned real estate business, Northside Realty. During Isakson’s 20 years as president of Northside, the company grew into the largest independent residential real estate brokerage company in the Southeast and one of the largest in America.
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