Ted Clem is the president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission is venturing into uncharted waters in its attempt to get back to the basics of job creation and industry retention and expansion in the area.
And in doing so, EDC officials plan to utilize the tried and true "three R's" of economic development: recruitment, retention and renewal.
"It's just like in eduction, they rely on their three R's: reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic," EDC Executive Director Ted Clem said. "As we've worked to put together a strategic plan, we've kept the three R's of economic development in mind in a back-to-basics approach.
"Since we're pretty much an insular organization as structured, we haven't really had an avenue to get people from the community involved. But part of our plan is to become more volunteer-driven, to get ideas from business leaders in the community. We're looking for some champions to help us achieve our mission."
A site consultant commissioned by Georgia Power to look at ways of making Albany and Dougherty County more business-friendly recommended creating a strategic plan that encompassed a common vision shared by stakeholders in the community. Clem and his EDC staff invited around 100 representatives of business, education, health care, government, nonprofit and private sectors to take part in strategic sessions.
"We tried to reach out to leaders of the sectors that really impact economic development, the true stakeholders," EDC Director of Marketing and Existing Industries Barbara Rivera Holmes said. "We had a core group of around 40 that took part and gave us excellent insight."
That group met for a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis session and for a more detailed follow-up session over two half-days, providing input that was used to develop the framework of the EDC's strategic plan.
"We didn't go in with a pollyanna approach," Clem, who has headed the Economic Development Commission for the past three years, said. "We didn't ignore the problems. We asked the stakeholders to look at our weaknesses, too, and help us come up with a way to turn them into strengths."
Participants pointed out and discussed strengths that would lead businesses and industries to consider Albany -- business climate, quality of life, transportation infrastructure, labor force, location -- and weaknesses that would dissuade them -- racial and socioeconomic issues, perception and image, education, lack of leadership, health care monopoly.
In a second half-day session, participants offered threats -- poor image, deterioration of school system, decreased work at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, leadership failures -- and opportunities -- partnerships, recruitment, support of existing industries, cohesive marketing and branding strategy, development of financial incentives -- that demand the focus of the Economic Development Commission.
"One thing that came from the planning meetings was an overall strong desire by participants to see a better Albany, a growing Albany," EDC Board Chairman Jay Smith said. "There was a concensus among participants that we have to provide an environment that would make new businesses want to come here and help the ones that are here to thrive.
"I think, as we discussed initiatives, everyone realized that these are things a three-person staff at the EDC could not do alone. They're things a nine-person board cannot do alone. We have to communicate these ideas to the community and get them involved. As we establish committees to work on the initiatives, we need input and involvement from the stakeholders in the community."
The core mission of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission -- to foster new business investment and job creation through the recruitment, retention and expansion of industry for Albany-Dougherty County -- will not change with the development of a comprehensive strategic plan. But the way the agency carries out that mission will be something of a different approach.
"I think this strategic plan can be a real game-changer," EDC Board member Miles Espy said. "Rather than simply list strategic initiatives and objectives, we'll outline action items that must be achieved to reach those objectives as they relate to recruitment, retention and renewal. And we'll ask business leaders in the community to be an active part of what we're doing.
"This could have a huge impact on how the EDC affects this community. But it's not going to happen in a vacuum. (The strategic plan) will be a vehicle to achieve some of our common goals, but it's going to take all of us -- the city, the county, business, education leaders, the community -- rolling up our sleeves and working together."