Corbin: Existing industries due credit

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- One of the state's top economic officials told local government and business leaders Friday that existing industries deserve much of the credit for pulling the country from a vicious economic recession.

At her most fundamental level, Gretchin Corbin is simply a cheerleader for the state; pitching all of its positives to CEO's and boards of directors around the world in hopes that they'll either choose Georgia as a home for their companies or to expand existing operations here.

But in reality, her job is much more.

She and her staff work as a collaborator, liaison, facilitator and problem solver between local governments, authorities and private businesses who've shown an interest in the Peach State.

Either way, her job is to create and retain jobs.

And Friday, Corbin chose the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission's Industry Appreciation Luncheon as a backdrop for a speech on the importance of remembering that in the global soiree between economic developers and prospective corporate clients, the old adage is true -- save a dance for the one that brought you; your existing industrial partners.

Comparing economic development to romantic relationships, Corbin stressed the importance of not getting lost in the infatuation of courting new industry, and risk losing a corporate spouse that has already invested themselves in the relationship.

"It's even more important that we not just have a good courtship with new industry, but a strong marriage with the ones that got us here and have provided us with jobs, services and community support over the years," Corbin said.

While Corbin, her crew and economic developers around the country continue to drag states and communities out of a lingering recession, she said Friday that existing industries -- although often overlooked -- are chiefly the ones who deserve the credit for pulling us back from the brink of economic collapse.

"They stood by and, although they may have been forced to cut services or trim staff, most made conscious decisions not to close-up shop and leave altogether," she said. "They are the champions of our time and they are the ones, I believe, deserve much of the credit for helping us get out of this recession."

Corbin's speech comes as the EDC and the Albany-Area Chamber of Commerce paid homage to local industry in Albany. Throughout the week praise has been lifted not only to the mega-industrial staples like MillerCoors, P&G and Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany; but small business as well.

"80 percent of community growth can be attributed to existing industries," EDC President Ted Clem told those in attendance. "We owe a lot to them and what they do for all of us."

The EDC has been tasked by Albany Mayor Willie Adams and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard to conducted an candid survey with existing industries to gauge not only how the EDC is doing in terms of its corporate and job retention efforts, but what additional things can be done to promote growth and stability among the community's corporate sector.

When asked what was the biggest challenge to recruiting or expanding industry in Southwest Georgia, Corbin said that generally things like infrastructure and access to a skilled and educated work force were two components that remain a challenge outside of the Atlanta Metro area.

"Those are challenges that have to be addressed," Corbin said. "But that's why we're here. To work with local governments to make sure that they are doing everything they can to grow."