EDC: Progress being made despite challenges

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite soaring unemployment numbers, slumping sales tax figures and signs that a recovery from a recession that has many businesses in a stranglehold may be slower than anticipated, local economic development officials say there is still interest in local industry.

Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem presented a sobering report to board members Wednesday, showing how unemployment has skyrocketed while revenues continue to dip.

But through it all, he said, the EDC has interested prospects in several area properties and industrial sectors.

"The last couple of years have been tough, but we have several prospects interested in local industrial opportunities like MacGregor. We've seen the growth and expansion of businesses like Equinox Chemical and Coats and Clark, and opportunities at the Marine Base are gaining traction," Clem said.

With February's unemployment figures at 12.5 percent -- the latest numbers are set to be released today -- the EDC and other local government agencies are making job creation their top priority.

Clem and EDC Vice President Justin Strickland announced a virtual job fair set for 11 a.m. today for a local company called NEW, which is looking for call-center-type positions that would be work-from-home jobs.

To participate, applicants must go to

https://www.newcorp.com/index.php/careers/home_based_ccr/ before 11 a.m. and register using the meeting code 8RPC6Q. The group also has a toll-free number at 1 (866) 692-3158 for those who have trouble logging in, and you can go to the company's Web site at www.newcorp.com for more information.

"Essentially, they're looking for people who have access to a telephone, a computer, who can take service calls for an electronics company," Strickland said.

The company has already partnered with Albany Tech to use classroom space there, but today's event is open to the public.

Clem and the board also discussed state budget cuts that are impacting the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which Clem said will have to slash its budget by roughly $10 million. Those cuts include the Regional Project Manager Program, which puts state economic development personnel in towns like Albany to help EDC officials court prospective businesses.

After a request from Clem, the board voted to allow him to send a letter urging the General Assembly not to cut the programs from the state EDC.

"Economic development is the solution to our problems, not a cause," Clem said. "I feel as though the state should take efforts not to cut these programs out."

The board is also preparing for its industry celebration week during the first week of May. The celebration includes a Rise-N-Shine breakfast on May 5, during which the EDC will prevent various awards to local businesses.