City Manager James Taylor gestures while explaining the value of creating a cohesive vision for the EDC. Also pictured are EDC board members from left, Christopher Pike, Jimmy Wilson and Aaron Johnson.
ALBANY, Ga. — An independent consult recently reported that Albany and Dougherty County lacks a clear, community-wide vision when pertaining to job creation.
Members of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission tasked its staff Wednesday with researching facilitators to begin that process.
Board Chairman Jay Smith said that the JANUS consultants — the people who made the report — left Albany with a largely favorable impression, but that were some areas where more work was needed.
“We know they saw a lot of good things. The comments they have were positive. But like anything, we have areas were we can work on,” Smith said. “We need to talk things through and think about what our next steps should be.”
The consultants identified the lack of a skilled, educated workforce as the top challenge in recruiting new business and jobs in Dougherty County — a challenge noted by EDC President Ted Clem as tough given that the EDC has no involvement or authority with the school system or any of the colleges or universities.
“That’s one of the top components of economic growth. The school board is its own government agency but at some point we’re going to have to address the issue of education,” City Commissioner and EDC Board Member Christopher Pike said. “One of the biggest challenges to recruiting jobs to Albany is the school system.”
The lack of skilled labor is something that existing industries are concerned about, Barbara Rivera-Holmes, the EDC’s Director of Business Retention and Expansion, told board members.
In surveys that are under way with existing industries, Holmes said that some have expressed difficulty in finding people with high-tech skills and training.
“They’ve said that there are difficulties finding people like chemical engineers and electrical engineers,” she said.
The workforce component would be part of an effort to develop a new vision for how to move economic development forward in Dougherty County.
“Without a vision, we’re walking around in circles or not walking around at all,” City Manager and EDC Board Member James Taylor said. “A visioning effort is critical ... I think its to our benefit to find the money to have it done.”
Clem said that staff would begin researching the best way to begin the initiative and look to organizations like the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech for facilitators.