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Area leaders get 'Economic Development 101' lesson

Solodev CEO Ray Gilley, a noted Florida economic developer, addresses a large gathering Thursday during the Mayor’s Economic Development Summit at Albany’s downtown Government Center.

Solodev CEO Ray Gilley, a noted Florida economic developer, addresses a large gathering Thursday during the Mayor’s Economic Development Summit at Albany’s downtown Government Center.

ALBANY, Ga. -- A crowd of around 100 local and area leaders and citizens interested in the region's economic future got a lesson in the "Three E's of Community Prosperity" Thursday afternoon at Mayor Dorothy Hubbard's Economic Development summit.

Ray Gilley, the CEO of content management software company Solodev of Orlando, Fla., and past president of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, told those gathered any thriving community's prosperity is built around education, employment and economic development.

"Through these elements you raise your community's socio-economic status, attract and retain high-wage employees, and sustain and pursue a wide range of economic opportunities," Gilley, who was introduced by Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem, said. "The question you must ask is what you as a group can do together to make your collective vision of Albany/Dougherty County's future a reality.

"If you are involved and engaged in this community-building effort, you're heading in the right direction."

The communitywide forum was sponsored by the Mayor's Coalition for Economic Development and facilitated by Clem and his EDC staff. It attracted a wide range of state, regional and community leaders, including state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, state Rep. Ed Rynders, the mayors of Dawson (Chris Wright) and Camilla (Vernon Twilley), five members of the Albany City Commission and the presidents of Albany's three institutions of higher learning: Anthony Parker of Albany Technical College, Peter Sereno of Darton State College and Everette Freeman of Albany State University.

"We're very pleased with this event; we had a wonderful turnout and we discovered a lot of things that I think will help us moving forward," Hubbard said after the two-hour gathering. "We're going to ask the people who were here today to take part in a survey that we'll use to determine our next steps in this effort to improve our communities and our region.

"As Mr. Gilley said, we don't have to know exactly what we want to be right now, but we have some discussion points that will help us determine what that is."

Gilley, who Clem described as a mentor, offered a quick SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the community based on information he'd been able to gather leading up to his appearance.

He noted Albany and Dougherty County's transportation system, its established and legacy businesses, its stable population base, its educational facilities, and its natural and developed assets as strengths; and said weaknesses include its relative seclusion, underperforming education system, and lack of diversified, high-wage jobs.

The economic developer said the area has opportunities to grow existing businesses, develop a global market presence, increase community engagement, and to leverage local and regional partnerships. He listed as threats the loss of a key employer, economic decline due to outmigration, a decline in the area's tax base and inaction by elected leaders.

"We're fortunate to have Ray lend his expertise to our efforts to improve our community economically," Clem said. "His passion for work force development and economic development kind of defines him."