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St. Marys economic director leaving office
ST. MARYS -- St. Marys Economic Development Director A.J. Jones met with city officials Monday to update them about ongoing projects that someone else will have to follow up on when he leaves for a new job Nov. 1.

But his departure could lead to something else some in the county have wanted for some time: a consolidated effort to seek and bring in new jobs.

Jones said he hates to leave, but "a business opportunity has shown itself. I wanted to take advantage of it for me and my family."

Jones has accepted the economic development director's position in College Park, effective Nov. 4, and said he wanted to ensure continuity with ongoing projects in Camden County.

Many of them involve confidential negotiations with prospective businesses that have expressed interest in locating to the city. City manager Steve Crowell will have to take the lead on those negotiations until a replacement for Jones is hired.

There are other projects Jones said the city will have to follow up on such as a gateway project on city-owned waterfront property, potential development of the old Durango-Georgia Paper Co. site, a food processing company that has expressed interest in building a 20,000-square-foot facility in town at the city's industrial park, redevelopment powers act legislation and ways to improve marketing the city.

Jones said new "way finding" signs are planned to help lead traffic to different locations in the city, such as parks and public offices, have been funded and now it's simply a matter of getting the permits to erect the signs.

A newly established enterprise zone that offers breaks on city taxes for local businesses that hire additional employees should help create more jobs, he said.

Jones said the decision to leave the city job he has held for more than two years was difficult because he is a sixth-generation resident of Camden County.

"There's a lot of good going on in this community," he said. "My kids are happy in school."

Jones said his replacement should be a good sales person who is capable of building relationships with prospects.

"It's important we sit down and listen to what they are looking for," he said. "Whoever comes in will have to be a true optimist."

His replacement should also be adept in using new technology.

"Technology is key in this business," he said. "If you are not technologically savvy, you are missing the boat."

Jones said his replacement should not let small factions of vocal residents derail plans that will benefit the majority of city residents.

"We do have a lot of positive things to look forward to in St. Marys," he said.

City officials might decide not to hire a replacement for Jones, Crowell said.

The Camden County Joint Development Authority has suggested Jones' departure might be a good time to consolidate services with the county.

In a letter to city officials, John McDill, chairman of the joint development authority, said economic development activities beyond downtown districts "are best served by the JDA model."

"Recognizing this history and opportunity, the JDA Board of Directors respectfully requests the city of St. Marys support and work through the JDA model for economic development beyond the downtown area," he said. "Such a decision would be an important first step toward a more unified effort to attract jobs and investment to our community."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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