Clem sees future growth at MCLB

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- While 2010 was a rough ride for Albany and most of the country, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem, sees brighter days on the horizon.

"Our goal the past year was to capture whatever projects we could," Clem told the Dougherty County Rotary Club Tuesday at Doublegate Country Club. "We knew 2010 was not going to be an easy year for us, but it was a difficult year all around.

"Still, we have a lot to offer in Albany and Dougherty County, and many people often take that for granted."

Clem said he and his staff are entering 2011 with renewed enthusiasm and taking aim at four areas of opportunity -- defense and logistics, corporate support, manufacturing and health care.

Over the past four months, five defense contractors -- BAE Systems, CBIA & Associates, S.A.C., General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin have all open shops in Albany.

Clem thinks that trend will continue.

"An urban market like Albany with the Marine Corps Logistics base is a perfect fit for these companies," said Clem. "We feel the best opportunity for us is with military and defense. We met recently with eight or nine of the Marine Corps brass at the Pentagon and their primary concern was equipping the fighting Marine. That is the core mission of MCLB."

Clem also thinks there are opportunities for Albany and the base to benefit from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' decision last month to scrap the $14 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program.

"With the future of the EFV in doubt, the Marines have a decision to make -- do they downgrade the EFV program or do they upgrade the existing AAVs (Amphibious Assault Vehicle) they've used for the past 40 years?

"If the decision is made to upgrade the AAV, much of the work will be done here which will be good for Albany. Plus, we anticipate a very rapid ramp up of labor by those defense companies which will do that work."

Clem, however, noted that the EDC has other cards up its sleeve.

"Albany is viewed as a competitive community with quality industrial sites," said Clem. "We are also taking a hard look at the food and beverage industry because of our local agricultural advantages."

EDC Senior Vice President Andrea Schruijer stressed that the EDC will do everything it can to make life easier for existing businesses.

"We've found it can be beneficial to concentrate on helping our existing industries," Schruijer said. "If you look at last year, existing businesses invested $25.5 million in the community and created 65 jobs.

"That's as good as bringing one new business to town."