EDC President Ted Clem talks to board members.
ALBANY, Ga. Unveiled Wednesday, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission's 2013 program-of-work includes up to $100,000 in funding for a special study that officials hope will allow them to more accurately target business and industry likely to relocate to Southwest Georgia.
The document is the EDC's annual action plan and will guide policy and efforts throughout the year, President Ted Clem said.
While mostly unchanged from last year's program-of-work, the 2013 version includes up to $100,000 for a business intelligence study and program that the organization hopes will allow them to more accurately target prospective businesses and industries with sectors that have already been identified as areas primed for growth in Southwest Georgia like Healthcare and food production.
"What this will help us do is, within each sector, see which companies are good candidates for expansion and relocation. So we're going to spend some time and effort and resources to try and determine maybe the top 100 companies in each of these sectors are good candidates...to focus our marketing efforts on that."
The funding will come out of the EDC's reserve fund, which currently sits at $400,000.
In addition to the business intelligence component, the 2013 program includes retail recruitment, development of regional marketing activities and renewed focus on existing industries and businesses through the EDC's Business Retention and Expansion Program or BREP.
Under the BREP program, EDC staffers visit with established businesses to find out what challenges or impediments they have for expansion and then the staffers work with local, state or federal agencies to remove those hurdles.
Included in the BREP program is the activities and jobs associated with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Maintenance Center Albany. While Clem said Wednesday that local officials are receiving word from the Pentagon that the Base Realignment and Closure Committee, or BRAC, likely won't meet in the near future, EDC officials are already working on a plan to recruit industries or businesses that will soften the blow as the U.S. military begins winding down combat operations in Afghanistan.
"There's a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the military right now, but one thing we do know is that MCLB has grown tremendously over the last decade to be able handle the vehicles needing repairs in Iraq and Afghanistan," Clem said. "That will likely continue for a few more years, but what we need to do and are planning to do when MCLB Albany returns to peace-time production and staffing levels.
"There have been tremendous skill sets that have been built at MCLB Albany in the workforce; are there ways we can attract industries that could use that skilled labor when they're no longer needed at MCLB?" Clem said. "We want to do a better job understanding those skill sets and understanding what there might be in the form of a private business that might need those workers."
As for the EDC's budget, very little has changed from last year, Clem said. The EDC is funded through $250,000 contributions from the City of Albany, the Dougherty County Commission and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
The only significant change was the shift from the EDC's reserve fund of the $100,000 for the business intelligence study and a $900 salary increase for staffers meant to help offset increasing healthcare costs.
The proposed salary increase met with some resistance from City Manager James Taylor and County Administrator Richard Crowdis -- both of whom are voting members of the EDC and both of whom have cut employee raises from their own government budgets.
"I need to take another look at it," Taylor said. "I'm going to have a hard time selling a pay increase when my people will have none and their health insurance is increasing."