There have been a lot of nibbles, but in fishing for economic development bites the lack of available buildings has been hurting Floyd County's efforts.
Rome Floyd Chamber President Al Hodge told the economic development committee of the Chamber on Friday that his staff has had 22 requests for existing buildings since Jan. 1 of this year.
"We've had to say thank you, but no thank you, 22 times," Hodge said.
Committee Chairman Scott Preston of Synovus Bank called Preston of Synovus Bank called the meeting primarily for the purpose of talking about why Rome had not been able to seal the deal on any number of prospects lately, and what could be done to lock prospects in.
Hodge and Chamber Economic Development Director Heather Seckman have been reporting for months that prospect activity is as high as it has ever been.
"Every single one of our (industrial) parks are in play right now," Hodge said.
Elyse Davis, the regional community and economic development specialist with Georgia Power, told the panel that speed to market, lower risks and lower costs are driving location decisions nowadays. An available building is one of the keys to that speed-to-market issue. Floyd County is seriously lacking in that area right now.
The Capitoline Products building at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport has been under contract for over a month, however no formal announcement has been made regarding the purchaser.
The old Shaw Industries plant on East 12th Street is also now under lease.
"Here's an opportunity, if you know of someone that wants to be part of a partnership to invest in a building, there's an interest in a public-private partnership," Hodge said. "If the private sector can come forward and take some risk on an investment or share a reward to be willing to build a spec building, the development authority is willing to work with you. We think there are lenders that are willing either individually or in syndication to do that."
Incentive packages being offered by communities in the extremely competitive hunt to bring new jobs to communities across not just Northwest Georgia, but the entire Southeastern U.S., are getting stronger and stronger.
"What would have been offered five years ago, you would almost have to double or triple that to be able to compete," Davis said. The 13-year tax abatement package that was given to Lowe's for their regional distribution center northeast of Rome might have to be 25 years in today's market.
"It has just been in the last 12 months that we've seen interstate communities offer these types of packages," Davis said.
Eric Waters from the Floyd County College and Career Academy said the school was doing its part to address workforce development issues that arise with some prospects. He told the committee that 85 students are enrolled in the robotics and engineering program at the FCCCA and that all 85 are dually enrolled, receiving two technical college credits while getting their high school diploma.
"That's an advantage, and to honest with you, that's not what we had developed, that's not what we had in 2012 — but that's what we have in 2018," Waters said.
County Manager Jamie McCord also told the committee that he is working with the Department of Transportation to haul excess soil being removed from the right of way for the widening of Ga. 140 to the North Floyd Industrial Park to fill some of the low-lying areas in that park and make it more attractive to prospects.
The third elementary school in Rome City Schools to achieve its Georgia Department of Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — or STEM — certification only took three years to do it.
Normally a five-year process, West End Elementary School celebrated its STEM certification with a visit from Georgia's School Superintendent Richard Woods — and afterward with a parade.
The certification serves as an approach to education which expands current teaching models for science and mathematics by incorporating technology and engineering concepts into standardized instruction.
This project began three years ago under the guidance of Buffi Murphy, West End's previous principal.
"When we began the process of obtaining our certification, our main goal was to implement the program at the highest levels," Murphy said.
"A big part of the process is how you begin the teaching and learning. We achieved this by embedding EIE units, Engineering is Elementary, and PBL units, Project Based Learning, to allow our students to take literacy and incorporate the STEM aspect in all content areas. We educated the students to develop and foster those critical thinking skills that we know will build future leaders."
The STEM ceremony was held in the gymnasium at West End and was packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, with students, educators and a variety of guests that came to honor the accomplishment.
Dennis Drummond, West End's current principal, led the introductions and the celebration to start off the ceremony.
"I want to first give credit to Buffi Murphy. I have been at West End for the last two years and it's been a privilege to see Mrs. Murphy's vision. She did such an absolutely amazing job implementing a focus on STEM without sacrificing rigorous standard-based instruction," Drummond said.
"We have outstanding instructional coaches and the finest teachers in the state. They go above and beyond, and we would have not achieved this without them. We also could not have accomplished this without our amazing student body. Our students are smart, well behaved and I'm just so thankful to be working with them."
Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods, who presented West End with their STEM certification banner, said the students' hard work will continue into the future.
"In looking at the future of these young people, the vast majority of Georgia students will have jobs that are directly tied to STEM education. It does make education more relevant for them as it involves the community, businesses and it's very encouraging as a collaborative effort. This is something that the whole school was really focused on, but more importantly it really gives our kids the very best of what education should be about."
As of September, Floyd County has had eight confirmed cases of rabies — four in raccoons, two in foxes, one bat and one cat, and the Floyd County Health Environmental Health Department is hosting a rabies vaccination clinic in the hopes to keep the number of infections down.
The department, along with Floyd County Animal Control and local veterinarians, will conduct a rabies vaccination clinic for cats and dogs on Sept. 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Floyd County Health Department, 16 E. 12th St.
"Our office has also investigated 206 animal-bite cases this year, which included bites to humans as well as domestic pets exposed to wild animals such as raccoons, bats and skunks," Floyd County Health Department Environmental Health Manager Shane Hendrix said in a press release. "Rabies is a deadly virus that is always circulating in our wild-animal population," Hendrix said.
Animals must be healthy, at least 12 weeks of age and on a leash or in a pet carrier. Cost for the rabies vaccination is $10.
Veterinarians from East Rome Animal Clinic, West Rome Animal Clinic and Mount Berry Animal Hospital will be giving the rabies shots.
Floyd County Animal Control staff will be assisting.
"Getting your pet vaccinated is the single best way to protect them from rabies. It's important to do it for their protection, for our protection and because it's state law," Hendrix said.
Hendrix encouraged people with pets to keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for their pets and to call Floyd County Animal Control at 706-236-4537 to remove all stray animals from neighborhoods since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
"When 'spillover' rabies occurs in domestic animals, the risk to humans is increased. We require pets to be vaccinated against rabies to prevent them from acquiring the disease from wildlife and possibly transmitting it to you," Hendrix said. "The rabies vaccination protects you, too."
For more information about the Sept. 22 rabies vaccination clinic, contact the Floyd County Environmental Health office at 706-295-6316.
Read this story online for more about rabies — including symptoms and treatments — from the Georgia Department of Public Health website.
Today's artwork is by Conlee Acrey, a student at Armuchee Elementary School.
With the internet connection across the Floyd County school system being put under daily stress — from Chromebooks to cameras to students' cellphones — officials are looking to work with a local company to nearly double its bandwidth and secure greater support to keep technology up and running.
"We're maxing out our bandwidth daily," Craig Ellison, the executive director of technology and media services, told Floyd County Board of Education members earlier this week.
By using the services of Parker FiberNet — for a monthly cost of $5,350, which also includes other services — the school system could add as much as 2 Gbps — gigabytes per second, the measurement of the speed at which data is transferred — to the 1.9 Gbps of bandwidth it currently has.
The current bandwidth is put under daily stress in supporting as many as 14,000 devices, Ellison said. Currently the school system's internet is connected at the central office, at 600 Riverside Parkway, and is dispersed to each school — servers are also connected here.
Adding to internet connection problems, Ellison said, is the increase in the number of devices utilizing it. On top of the more than 12,000 Chromebooks in schools, new security cameras at Pepperell High, which send live footage back to the central office, compete for bandwidth, and the school system intends to install cameras at each school in the future. Also, further competition for bandwidth comes from digital signage, software and online assessments, as well as students connecting their phones to the school system's internet.
Superintendent Jeff Wilson said at the central office there are times when you can't get on the internet due to a delay in devices waiting for available space.
With Parker Fiber-Net, the school system would use their bandwidth for the thousands of Chromebooks, while keeping its own in place to handle the devices consuming less data. The data center at the central office would be moved over to the company's power grid.
Also, there would be a new battery backup and phone backup, supported by a generator, which the school system doesn't have. So if the power is out at the central office then technology services across the school system would not be impacted, Ellison said.
Wilson said the school system would have to pay all of the monthly fee for a year, but then would have 80 percent of the cost covered by E-rate discounts from the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Administrative Co., a not-for-profit corporation.