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Hopes build for more growth
Business leaders say they are cautiously optimistic that 2013 will continue the upswing seen in the Golden Isles in 2012 following the Great Recession, more than three years after it ended in June 2009.

New businesses, such as precision parts maker Scojet, moved into Glynn County, and existing businesses, such as Gulfstream, expanded and added positions.

That's a good sign to Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority, and he thinks more good things are to come.

Sparks said the authority used the down time during the recession wisely, focusing on improving economic assets.

"We've taken this economic pause as an opportunity to reinvest in ourselves," Sparks said.

When the recession hit, only one industrial park existed in the area.

"The board of the authority said very wisely, in my opinion, 'Let's use this time to focus on new industries,'" Sparks said.

Since then, three new industrial parks have opened, and business owners have taken notice.

North Glynn Commerce Park and Coastal Logistics Park at Tradewinds opened in 2008. Eastgate Commerce Park followed in 2010.

Growth in educational facilities in recent years has provided more opportunities for students and has caught the attention of business owners.

Programs at the Golden Isles Career Academy, College of Coastal Georgia and Altamaha Technical College are assets that manufacturers look for when moving into a new town.

"Adding the programming and facilities that have made our college grow is something that industry is paying attention to," Sparks said.

It's not just manufacturing that is looking up in Glynn County. The tourism outlook also is promising, said Scott McQuade, executive director of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We've been fortunate that over the last two years we've continued to see consistent growth in the tourism sector," McQuade said.

A new marketing campaign proved successful in attracting more visitors to Glynn County.

"Probably one of the most monumental feats was the new marketing campaign and branding of the whole area. Along with that and just a lot of different positive things going on in tourism in the Golden Isles is culminating in a lot of new interest and getting a lot of national attention," McQuade said. "The word is getting out and that can only help bring more visitors."

Accommodations taxes, a way of judging visitation in the area, have increased every month since the beginning of the bureau's fiscal year in July. August alone was up 19 percent over last year.

Still, Sparks and McQuade recognize there is always room to improve, and they welcome more growth.

Sparks hopes businesses continue to move into the Golden Isles and take note of the what the area has to offer.

"Our primary goal is to continue to capitalize on the new industry," Sparks said.

Understanding the needs of visitors will help McQuade and his staff better target potential travelers and keep those visitors happy.

The bureau has launched a research project hoping to get an idea of the demographics of tourists and opinions of the area.

"We anticipate that we'll have upwards of 5,000 visitors polled annually by the time we're done with the project," McQuade said.

He said the information will tell the tourism industry where improvements are needed.



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