Terry Coleman feels he is the right person for the job of Georgia labor commissioner.
Coleman, from Dodge County, has had an extensive career in Georgia government. He has served in the Georgia House of Representatives, were he served as chairman of the Natural Resources, Public Safety, and Ways and Means Committee as well as the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
“I felt with my experience in the legislature and in business that it best suited my personality and background,” Coleman said.
The state of Georgia is in great need of a labor commissioner that is willing to be hands-on in his or her approach to putting Georgians in jobs, he said.
“We’ve got, statistically, a ten and a half percent unemployment rate,” Coleman said. “It’s actually much higher than that because of the long-term unemployed that are basically taken off the rolls.”
In 2007 he was appointed as deputy commissioner of agriculture, where he served for more than three years. As Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin prepares to step down, many thought Coleman would run to replace Irvin.
Coleman said he feels his experience and skills will be better suited to the Labor Department.
“It’s (agriculture) turned into pretty much a regulatory agency,” Coleman said. “This year, the legislature, they were looking for money and they cut our budget by about a third and replaced it with fees.”
The change only increased the amount of regulatory endeavors the department handles, Coleman said. “I just felt like I could do a lot more for the state in labor,” Coleman said. “The department has resources that we can redirect.”
If elected to serve as labor commissioner, Coleman will not be too far removed from agriculture, as it is the largest industry in the state.
“Labor is a huge problem in agriculture and we can use the office to support H2A visas for legal migrant workers for the farms and ag businesses that need temporary labor,” Coleman said. “We can be proactive in that to help them.”
As far as where new jobs or industries might come from, Coleman is hesitant to give a firm direction.
Green industry is the direction many people are suggesting and the state is rich in renewable natural resources, he said.
Looking at bringing businesses and industries that have been outsourced to other countries will also be important, he said.
“There are lots of things we can bring back home,” Coleman said.
Building a strong foundation between business and industry and the state’s education system will be integral to the state’s success, he said.
“Some congressman made a statement the other day and I’m 100 percent in agreement: ‘Instead of financial institutions that are too big to fail, education is too important to fail,” Coleman said. “If we drain the resources of education to the bare bones then to rebuild our education system is going to take a decade. We’ve got to do something to make sure we don’t ruin the education in the state.”
If elected, Coleman said he will work toward establishing a 21st Century Jobs Task Force that will look at new jobs and industries for the state to create new job classes in Georgia, he said.
Possible jobs could be found in infrastructure projects across the state, from water and sewer projects to road and bridge projects, Coleman said.
“It puts people to work immediately,” he said.
Coleman disagrees with the federal government’s decision earlier this week to not extend unemployment benefits to the millions who remain jobless.
There are people who could possibly find a job, he said, but others want to work and are unable to find work.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to cut off those benefits in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Coleman said.