Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, right, talks with Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff “Bodine” Sinyard Monday. Butler predicted a slow-but-steady job growth for the state.
ALBANY ALBANY, Ga. — As the state’s economic engine slowly begins to rev back toward its pre-recession levels, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told Southwest Georgia officials Monday that Georgia’s existing industries are largely responsible for the state’s budding recovery.
Speaking at Monday’s industry celebration luncheon hosted by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, Butler told the audience that the recruiting new industry into the state is an important part of the state’s overall recovery plan, but that it was the tenacity of existing industries who made the commitment to stick it out in Georgia that is setting the foundation for Georgia to rise.
“We spend a lot of time talking about attracting new businesses to Georgia, which is important ... but we can’t forget that the ones that are going to get us out of this are the ones we have now. The ones who have weathered the storm,” Butler said.
Butler said that the state’s top priority should be on developing a strong pool of skilled laborers.
“Even jobs many of us consider to be simple jobs now require some degree of technical involvement,” Butler said. “You can have great incentives, great ports, great infrastructure but if you don’t have a skilled workforce, then you won’t succeed.”
Butler’s speech is the start of the EDC’s Industry Celebration Week, an annual tribute to Albany and Southwest Georgia’s existing industrial enterprises.
Ted Clem, president of the EDC, said that developing a skilled workforce is a challenge that public education and institutions of higher education are addressing.
“Like the commissioner said, to a degree public education has their hands tied, but I think you’re seeing a desire to shift to applied knowledge approach,” Clem said. “Workforce development and training is something that our local institutions helping to address.”
During his speech, Butler talked about the importance of developing infrastructure and improving transportation needs and, at one point went so far as to say that the state can ill afford to delay transportation projects saying that “if we continue to just kick the can on down the line, we’ll end up with roads like Alabama.”
Butler pointed to expansion and development of Savannah’s port as a statewide economic development tool, one Southwest Georgia is poised to benefit from given the construction of an inland port distribution facility being built in Cordele.
The EDC’s industry celebration week continues today with a “Masters of Industry” event at Doublegate Country Club from 5 to 7 p.m.