Roger Dane, of Ridge Spring, S.C., waits for a shot during a hunt at Quail Country Plantation near Arlington.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Cementing Albany's reputation as quail hunting capital of the world during the week that Quail Unlimited's annual Celebrity Conservation Hunt is being conducted at local plantations, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission officials outlined plans for the 25th Georgia Quail Hunt at that board's monthly meeting Wednesday.
Representatives of as many as 22 national and worldwide business prospects, as well as an equal number or greater of economic development leaders in the state, are expected to take part in the Feb. 6-8 hunt at plantations in the region.
The quail hunt, formerly known as the Fall Feather Hunt, is co-sponsored each year by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Allies and the Southwest Georgia Chamber Council. Company sponsors for this year's event include Outdoor Network/Powersports Plus, MillerCoors, Kia Motors America, and Kia AutoSport dealerships in Albany and Columbus. Its impact on the state has been staggering: $2.6 billion in investment and 8,464 jobs.
"The Georgia Quail Hunt is a point of pride for our community," EDC Vice President for Business Development Justin Strickland said at Wednesday's meeting. "It's not only an opportunity to showcase our region, it's a chance to show off our hospitality. There's a longstanding relationship between the community and the hunt, and that local involvement is crucial.
"A lot of our key business leaders volunteer as drivers or for other positions that allow them to talk with the participating business prospects in a relaxed, no-pressure atmosphere. It's obviously paid huge dividends."
Strickland points to Tom D'Azevedo, the owner of Outdoor Network LLC and its local retail operation Powersports Plus, to illustrate his point.
"Tom was already looking at the (former) MacGregor Golf facility as a possible strategic location for the outdoors side of his distribution business," the EDC official said. "He was involved with the Quail Hunt, where he met the governor, key officials from Georgia Quick Start and other program managers from throughout the state. I was going down to Florida to talk with him (about locating his business in Albany), and before I even got there he'd already been visited by (Georgia economic development officials).
"He ended up moving his entire business line, except for his marine store, which is highly successful, to Albany. I attribute this success story to the relationship-building that happens at the Georgia Quail Hunt."
D'Azevedo and his company are providing sport utility vehicles for the hunt, while Kia dealerships from Albany and Columbus will provide "brand new Kia's right off the assembly line in West Point" to transport participants.
"A wide array of prospects" will participate in a sporting clay shoot on the 6th and will hunt quail at area plantations on the 7th and 8th.
"It is always a great honor to have the chance to meet and learn from top business leaders about what they need to create jobs and grow their bottom line," Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark said. "We are excited to highlight one of the most beautiful parts of our state and are eager to illustrate to these companies how competitive Georgia is with our incentives, business climate, infrastructure and quality of life -- as well as what we are doing to help businesses grow and thrive in the global economy."
Also at Wednesday's EDC meeting, leaders of the Retention (Aaron Johnson), Recruitment (Chris Hatcher) and Renewal (Miles Espy) task forces updated the commission, which included for the first time new members Jim Deal, Anthony Parker and Cynthia George, on their ongoing efforts. EDC President Ted Clem gave an update on negotiations to lease office space at the Riverfront Resource Center on Pine Avenue.
"We haven't been able to firm up a lease agreement," he said. "We're still negotiating, but there's a big difference in what we've offered and what they're asking."
Clem said the EDC made an offer on a 6-year lease agreement with an option for an additional five years.
Deal asked if there might be a better way to rearrange or add to the Chamber of Commerce building so that the EDC could remain there comfortably, noting that a move would leave the chamber, EDC and Convention and Visitors Bureau in three separate locations.
"Would that be the best use of our money?" Deal asked.
When Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis told him the county is renting the Bridge House Visitors Center to the CVB for $10 a month, Deal quipped, "You got any more of those?"