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Attracting new as important as retaining old
Encouraging economic development is more than convincing businesses to locate operations in the Golden Isles.

Growing the economy is also about fostering businesses that already call Glynn County home.

That keeps John Scott, project manager for the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority, busy meeting with existing industries, determining their challenges and working through solutions as part of the authority's Business and Retention Expansion program, created in 2009.

"Getting new prospects to come in the area is very important, but it's also important to make sure that you're mindful of existing businesses," Scott said.

The majority of job creation is the result of existing companies expanding their work forces, he said.

The program is designed to keep businesses in the area and growing.

Working with a number of resource partners who provide additional help for employers, Scott will visit Glynn County's manufacturers at least twice a year.

"We don't have a predetermined idea of what we're going to do or what we're going to offer until we actually talk with our industry partners," Scott said.

Businesses are measured by the risk of leaving or going out of business, on a scale from red, being most likely to leave or fail, to blue, most likely to see expansion.

Scott points to his experience with one local business as proof the program produces results.

"When I first met with them they were definitely in the red (category)," Scott said, noting he would not disclose the company's name.

"You like to think all businesses are doing well, and the majority of them are, but there are some that are struggling. It's very disheartening to see. They're just heartbroken."

Scott recently met again with the company and learned it is now expanding.

"A big part is just keeping tabs," Scott said.

Business retention is difficult to measure but keeping lines of communication open helps the authority address problems and keeps businesses healthy.

Jan Melcher, executive director of economic development for the Altamaha Technical College, agrees it's just as important, if not more, to support existing companies as it is to attract new ones.

Melcher works with the authority to provide job training and support programs, namely Georgia Quick Start, which is a program of the Technical College of Georgia.

"We do things like training people to use personal protective equipment, teaching safety on the job. We do that for companies, but we also offer programs for individuals who want to upgrade their skills," Melcher said.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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