~ The comments below were delivered by Zaheer Faruqi, Economy Committee Chair, at the Annual Summit ~
Fayette Visioning Summit
December 11, 2015
Economy Committee Report
Good morning. The Economy Committee focuses on growing business in Fayette County as well as attracting and retaining existing industry. Our three goals are:
- Support small business and entrepreneurial growth
- Attract, retain and expand businesses that employ Fayette residents and
- Develop a sustainable film and entertainment cluster
The Economy Committee’s primary partners are the Fayette County Development Authority and the Fayette Chamber of Commerce.
Fayette County has had some great successes landing businesses here
The list for 2015 include, but is not limited to, Osmose, Georgia Military College and Wencor. These relocations are headline makers…. but what doesn’t make the headlines is what our existing industry is doing. Former MIT professor Dr. David Birch did a groundbreaking study that found that up to 80 percent of job growth in any community is generated by the businesses already located there, not by business attraction efforts. From the beginning, the Fayette Visioning initiative placed a high value on existing industry. For these reasons, the success story for the Economy Committee is the revitalization of the Fayette Industry Council. Its mission is to connect our industries to share best practices and work together on common concerns. The Industry Council has 46 member companies and has had an average attendance of 20 at this year’s meetings.
Industry is a term used to describe all types of businesses from the corner store to huge conglomerates. In the case of our industry council, we are defining “industry”, as a business is that is likely to have most of their market share outside of region. That means they are bringing new revenue into the County that trickles down to our retail and service businesses through goods and services the businesses buy locally and through wages paid to their workforce. Additionally, these companies are often the types of corporations that invest in civic giving providing our non-profit community welcome partners.
I am proud to be a member of the Industry Council. For me and my fellow members, the Council is a valued resource helping us gain greater success.
Our first Industry Council program this year was on workforce development. We learned about internships and apprenticeships that the Fayette School system offers. We also learned about changes to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a federal program that provides training grants and tax credits to businesses. The Atlanta Regional Commission is the service provider for these grants and they shared that the new focus is on local industry needs. A NAECO representative shared how his business has grown by taking advantage of these training tax credits.
At our last meeting, we learned about lean processes from an expert at Georgia Tech. Leaders of two local manufacturing plants, TDK Components and United Radio, met for the very first time at that meeting. They are now sharing best practices by touring each other’s businesses and discussing similar challenges and resources. This is exactly the point of the Industry Council and is an excellent example of making valuable connections.
Business retention and expansion strategies are key parts of economic development. One of the Council’s goals is to seek ideas on how improve the business climate in Fayette County and Georgia. When companies grow and expand, we want them do it in Fayette County. We want to make sure that permitting processes and costs at the state and local level are not burdensome. We want to make sure that workforce needs are addressed. We want to make sure that our transportation systems work well so that we can get goods and services out efficiently and that workers can get to work easily. The Industry Council is a key tool in building relationships with existing industry so that they think Fayette first when it is time to grow.
For the next year, we are excited about what is going on. Of course, the Industry Council will continue to meet quarterly. We also will expect progress in other areas of the Vision plan. Foremost is traditional economic development activities. We are excited to know that the Fayette County Development Authority will be hiring a new leadership team most likely in the first quarter of the next year. The current interim CEO Joan Young is reviewing the organizations marketing strategy as well as assessing Fayette County’s economic development tools and will have changes either in place for the new CEO. Another exciting project that we will hear about next year is the City of Fayetteville’s economic development strategy. The City is already considering creating an industrial park which is a key component in attracting jobs and investment. They will vote on the rezoning at their meeting next week. We are also ready to move forward with our start-up plan. The Chamber will be implementing the tech startup initiative and is creating a program to identify and build this small but important sector of the Fayette Business community. If fostering entrepreneurship and high-tech startups is your thing, Carlotta Ungaro will be glad to put you on the planning team for this initiative.
We had a great start for 2015 and look forward to rolling out the next phase of the Economy Plan.
~ If you are interested in joining the Economy Committee, or learning more about the work they are doing, please email a request to join the newsletter at Fayette@fayettevisioning.com. Or you can visit the Economy Page at http://fayettevision.org/implementation/Economy/ ~