Dougherty Commission discusses economic development

Albany-Dougherty County Economic Development Commission President Justin Strickland presents the EDC’s quarterly report to the Dougherty County Commission on Feb. 25. The presentation sparked a discussion this week among commissioners concerning economic growth in the Albany area. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — In a February Dougherty County Commission meeting, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Justin Strickland gave the EDC’s quarterly report.

Strickland’s report sparked a commission discussion this week about some of the steps the board said they thought ought to be taken regarding economic development.

Strickland’s report at the commission’s Feb. 25 meeting included a presentation of the commission’s Deal of the Year trophy. The Georgia Economic Developers Association deemed the leadership in Albany and Dougherty County worthy of the honor for its work in helping to bring a Georgia-Pacific lumber plant to the community.

The Georgia-Pacific project, for which ground was broken last month, consists of a $150 million capital investment and 130 new jobs at the site of the former Albany-Dougherty Industrial Park, a community-invested and pre-developed 224-acre industrial site.

“For us to be able to win this award is a huge honor for us,” Strickland said.

The report said that recent job additions at Webstaurant, the recovery of the Coats and Clark plant from the severe weather Albany has faced and the promotion of commercial truck driver positions that are in high demand are among the other positive economic news the southwest Georgia region has going for it in terms of growth.

The EDC coordinates opportunities with industries, and therefore is not marketed as a resource for small businesses. District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines posed a question about where the Albany area should be aiming in terms of an economic base — including what may need to be, at least figuratively, rebuilt.

District 6 Commissioner Anthony Jones brought up the issue of large vacant buildings, including the former Kmart building on Dawson Road, to further the discussion.

“We have to get something on paper,” Jones said. “We have to stop kicking this can down the road. We need to discuss this issue. We need to engage various agencies.”

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said he would be open to discussing economic issues further, but also mentioned a similar meeting he had set up previously that was poorly attended.

“(We need to set up) a plan to be followed,” District 4 Commissioner Russell Gray said. “If not, we are just throwing darts at a map.”

Strickland added that the EDC continues to follow up on businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael, and that Leadership Georgia is expected in Albany March 14-16.

To help with the recruitment of commercial truck drivers, the Albany Technical College Transportation Academy offers an eight-week program. Strickland said many graduates have jobs paying $50,000-$60,000 waiting for them due to the demand. There are day and evening classes, and eligible Georgia residents can have their full tuition paid for by state tuition grants.

Those with questions about the program at Albany Tech can call (229) 430-1732.

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Staff Writer

I'm a 2007 graduate of Georgia Southern University, and I've been a reporter for The Albany Herald since 2008. I cover news related to health care, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, SOWEGA Council on Aging and other areas as assigned.