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Joint authority bringing jobs
It began a decade ago as a necessity, a means to find the money and ability to divert the rail system to the port at Colonel's Island around the city of Brunswick.

Since that first task was realized, the Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority - a venture of Glynn, Brantley, Camden, Charlton, McIntosh and Wayne counties - has been aimed at drawing business and industry to the region.

It's not always an easy task. For the members of the regional authority, most of whom participate in economic development in their home counties, the goal of courting industry to a single county is work enough. But the benefits for the six participating counties are too good to pass up. Any industry that settles in Southeast Georgia could employ residents of any of the counties. Unlike tax revenue, jobs don't recognize county lines.

"It's a way to allow employees to continue to work here, and a chance to help (the participating counties) incubate some smaller businesses in their community," said Tony Sammons, former chair of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority and a founder of the SGJDA. "It's a win-win for all of us. Not one county survives on its own by supplying employees for the jobs in their community. We're just trying to help each other grow for the betterment of all."

McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority Director Wally Orrel, vice chairman of the SGJDA, said the regional board is in the process of restructuring. New development authority director Chuck Scraggs is taking over in Glynn County and will have to be acquainted with the joint board's work, he said. In addition, Camden County is searching for a new head of its development authority.

The SGJDA is also in the process of devising a mission for the coming years. Since the joint authority formed in 2005, it has collected funds from the Norfolk Southern Railroad Corp. for the use of its new tracks. These funds have accumulated over the years, said Dave Smith, assistant director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority. Now, the regional group is working to determine how to use the money.

"The Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority is one of a very few, if not the only development authority within the state, that has its own private income," Smith said. "They are using those funds for marketing the entire region.

"In 2013, the joint authority held a retreat, and they were discussing how to utilize these funds going forward. One of those is perhaps the creation of a revolving loan fund that could be loaned out to some business to move forward with economic development."

He said the SGJDA could buy land for future industrial use or provide other financial resources to the smaller counties in the region. Sammons said the agency's members have floated other ideas, like constructing an industrial park or further developing its website.

Orrel said he is currently working with Georgia Southern University to study the effects the regional agency and its work on the rail system have had on the six member counties.

The board's members will meet with the new president of Coastal Pines Technical College to improve workforce development programs in the region, and put more work into an extensive marketing plan.

Ultimately, he said, whatever is done will be part of the effort to promote Southeast Georgia against other regions of Georgia and other states.

"Are we competitive between ourselves? Yes, but we're working to work together to promote the region," Orrel said. "Each of us has different assets. We're supportive of each other, and we're working together to create an interest in the Southeast region. I think there's been more interest in general in the past 12 months than there was in the past three years before that."

* Reporter Kelly Quimby writes about government and other local topics. Contact her at kquimby@thebrunswicknews.com, or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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