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On the Job with ... Ted Clem

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

"On the Job With..." is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today Q&A session is with Ted Clem, president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission.

Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?

A. If you have waited until your senior year or have already graduated, you have waited too long. College is a great opportunity to meet people and begin to build your network. Build relationships with your professors and fellow students who have like minded career aspirations. You never know when these connections will pay dividends throughout your life. You should take every opportunity to co-op or intern with companies in your chosen field to get vital experience and make sure you leave a good impression.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. For my first real job out of college, I had to borrow $1,000 from my dad to buy a few suits and ties to wear to work. In addition to paying off that debt, I still remember the first major purchase my wife and I made as a couple - a new washer and dryer from Sears. I don't think we have ever been prouder of a purchase.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Nothing works better than financial incentives and rewards, but I think it is human nature to respond to praise and verbal validation. We all want to know we are appreciated and valued.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I grew up in Butler County, just outside of Georgiana, Ala., and like most kids in my community, started working on local tobacco farms at a young age. Cropping, racking, and putting green tobacco in the curing barns has to be one of the nastiest jobs I've ever experienced. That's where I learned to value a good education.

Q. What led you to your current position?

A. I took a course in economic geography at Troy State University and became fascinated with the subject of business locations and how choosing a location can ultimately determine the success or failure of a company. In a sense, economic development is nothing more than the applied knowledge of economic geography. At the time, the University of Southern Mississippi had the only degreed graduate program in economic development. I applied for the program and was admitted as a graduate assistant.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Too many to name. There are literally dozens of people in this profession who I have learned from and still ask for their advice to this day. I learned very early that I would never have all the answers. But one of the great things about this profession is that most people are willing to share ideas and be helpful.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Two common phrases come to mind: "All good things must come to an end" and "what goes up, must come down." In spite of this, most people were caught flat-footed with the collapse of the housing market, which led to the financial meltdown, and ultimate recession. I would hope that after last decade's Internet bubble and this decade's housing bubble that we will be able to recognize a bubble when we see one in the future. As an economic developer, we have to recognize there is only one way to create wealth in a community -- provide a service or make a product that someone else will value and purchase.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?

A. I think all of these examples are vital to the way we do business today, but we rely on them way too much. Personally, I think we use e-mail way too often for important communication. Most people have poor written skills to begin with and as a communication tool, a poor writer cannot make up for the loss of body language, tone, and emotion sometimes needed for proper communication. As a result we can sometimes read too much or too little into the email.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. It's not a gadget, per se, but I love our GIS-based mapping website at the EDC. We can conduct real estate site searches for companies with varying demographic, infrastructure, and transportation needs with a few clicks of the mouse. When I first started in this profession, it took weeks to conduct this type of analysis.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read was "The Power of Surrender" by my pastor, Michael Catt. This book is a call to personal and corporate revival, and I encourage every Christian to read it. Another recent book I've read that has been of great influence is "Radical" by David Platt. A totally different subject area, but the Michael Lewis book "The Big Short" was very helpful to me in understanding the recent financial meltdown. I read several Internet versions of newspapers daily. Everything from the Albany Herald to the Wall Street Journal.

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I'm usually up by 6:30, take my son to school, and get to the office about 30-45 minutes before office hours. I enjoy that time to both prepare for the day and check some of the headlines from our community and around the world.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. With three kids, they are my hobby. I do enjoy an occasional round of golf or an even more occasional quail hunt.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I don't necessarily regret any one decision, but I wish I had been a little more patient earlier in my career to learn and grow.

Learning from mistakes is a great way to learn, but I probably made too many of them early on.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Every day and every project we work is a new challenge and that helps to keep your head in the game.At the end of the day, we know that our success in economic development can change the quality of life for an individual, a family, and a community. That's great motivation.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. There are so many factors that affect our ability to be successful that are totally beyond our control.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Probably the typewriting class I took in high school.

It's a skill I use every day and never would have made it through college or graduate school without it.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. Probably a professional golfer. If I can just fix that slice, the senior tour is right around the corner.

Q. Finish this thought; "On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself ...

A. Have you seen my 401K? I don't think my wife and I are the types to retire to the good life. We both want to be useful and do something meaningful in our senior years. We've discussed doing some type of mission work at some point in our lives.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Integrity.

Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. Technically, it already is recovering, but I think it will be some time before it begins to feel like it. I'm very hopeful that 2011 will be a much better year for Albany.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I don't own an iPod, but listen to satellite radio in my truck. You will find it tuned to the contemporary Christian radio channel or ESPN radio.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. A decade from now I think you will find a vibrant downtown, though probably much different from what people may imagine or remember from Albany's past, and I think East Albany will be a much different place fueled by retail growth around the new Wal-Mart, the new Albany-Dougherty Industrial Park, and growth from Marine Corps Logistics Base.

Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?

A. Our family is fairly simple when it comes to vacations.

One of the best was the few days we spent last summer at Callaway Gardens with our extended family. We had a blast on the bike trails with our kids.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business during the past few years?

A. You have to know your community and have quality information at your fingertips.

We used to have weeks to prepare a proposal or request for information, but now we feel blessed to have more than 48 hours to respond to a company or site consultant.