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Image isn't everything, but a good one sure helps

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard made a statement last week that deserves to be repeated and thought about.

At the ribbon-cutting and preview tour of the new terminal at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, the mayor observed: "You only get one chance to make a lasting and favorable first impression."

From what we've seen of the new facility at the airport, which is scheduled to open to air travelers at the end of the month, a good impression is exactly what Albany should get from first-time visitors to our community. A brand-new, sparkling building with all the bells and whistles is certain to do just that.

That's a reason why it is still important for the city to do everything it can to alleviate the blight that catches visitors' eyes when they enter Albany on Clark Avenue. The construction of the Walmart Supercenter was a double win in that it and the businesses that followed brought some much needed business to East Albany while also replacing a mobile home park that was, at best, eyesore. That's still a problem with the trailer park on Clark Avenue.

A first impression won't make a business move to Albany. It won't make a person relocate here. There are many other factors to consider. But, a bad first impression can lead to a quick decision to go somewhere else and, in cases when it doesn't, is awfully hard to overcome, regardless of what benefits a community may offer.

The highly competitive field of economic development is hard enough without making your job tougher.

Making that good first impression gives you something to build on. One of the critical aspects that businesses examine is the capabilities of the local work force. And that topic is one that the mayor plans to address Thursday in a community forum at the downtown Government Center.

Sponsored by the Mayor's Coalition for Economic Development, an alliance of volunteers working to educate the public about economic development, it's Hubbard's second forum on topics that are critical to Albany moving forward.

"Our first forum started the conversation with our citizens about economic development -- about what it is and about the role of citizens in the process," Hubbard said last week. "We're continuing that dialogue about the process and the components. Training our work force to meet the skills demanded by companies today and having a strategy for identifying and providing the skills needed for tomorrow shapes Albany-Dougherty County's and Southwest Georgia's economic success."

Speaking at the meeting will be Raymond Gilley, an economic developer who has a background in work force development. He was president of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission for 10 years and chaired Work Force Central Florida before then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him chair of Work Force Florida. Gilley led the development of the state's work force policy, programs and services. Since March, he's been the CEO of Solodev, a content management software company. He also serves on the board of the International Economic Development Council.

We hope that there will be a good turnout for the forum, which is set for 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. It will be in room 100 of the Government Center, which is located at 222 Pine Ave.

We all have a stake in the future of Albany. We all benefit when economic development is successful. We all have a role in helping it happen, whether it's being prepared to do a job a new company brings, going out and finding potential businesses or just greeting a first-time visitor to town with a smile.

You never know how far that good first impression can take you and your community.