Come Thursday, Aug. 1, it won’t be business as usual at the Rome-Floyd Chamber. Or will it? That’s when Missy Kendrick becomes the president of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority and takes the reins of Rome’s effort to bring new jobs to the community
“We’re just going to continue to serve our 936 members as we have been,” said President Jeanne Krueger. “We are the advocates for business and you know everything does come full circle. You take your larger industries, they provide the jobs for people to go into your shops and restaurants and places to do business.”
Longtime Chamber Director of Economic Development Heather Seckman will also transition from a chamber payroll to the development authority.
The chamber however, is not exactly being turned upside down. The new economic development team will be temporarily housed at the chamber office on Riverside Parkway until new space is renovated in an old fire department building behind the chamber office. The chamber building, which underwent a major renovation about a year ago and is certainly reflective of a modern, vibrant economic development engine, will still play a significant role in future job growth across the community.
Ken Wright, director of existing industry and business services at the chamber, will continue to work very closely with existing manufacturers through the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association.
“A large portion of my role will remain the same,” Wright said. Making sure that existing companies know the benefits of Opportunity Zones, both state and federal, as well as programs that benefit companies in less-developed Census tracts are other key functions of Wright’s position.
Krueger said she believes there will be a lot of emphasis on serving the growing number of young professionals in the Rome community.
“We are now seeing an upswing in connectivity and engagement, and we certainly want to continue that,” Krueger said. If the young professionals become more engaged through simple networking, they are likely to attract more of their friends to Rome and Floyd County.
In addition to the medical field, Krueger said that the finance industry is attracting a growing number of young professionals to Rome, along with the education sector.
“We love all the innovation and digital companies that are here,” Krueger said. She specifically mentioned Romega Digital, Brand Red Studios and Hexalinks.
The chamber’s Partners in Prosperity III program, fueled by funding from firms like Southeastern Mills, State Mutual Insurance, Georgia Power, International Paper, OTR Wheel Engineering, Pirelli, Parker FiberNet as well as the city of Rome and Floyd County from the public sector, is winding down this year.
“We want to remain in the forefront with our industry, taking on the tasks that they tell us that they want us to take on,” Krueger said. There will be a review of he Rome Floyd 20/20 plan by the board and staff. “Everything changes so fast so you’re constantly tweaking where you are,” Krueger said.
Chamber leadership will also continue its efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and strengthen education and workforce training to keep the community competitive, not only with other communities in Northwest Georgia, but the entire Southeast as a global economy continues to become more evident.
“Workforce development is a huge priority,” Wright said. “Jeanne and I have been really active in trying to retain our college students after they graduate. We’ve been very active working with the Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools on curriculum and what skills are being taught to prepare our workforce.”
Wright also takes special interest in anything that has to do with transportation. Whether it is related to the inland port, or the port in Savannah, the Citizens Advisory Committee for transportation, or the transportation planning committee. His involvement in all of those groups is helpful when it comes to responding to logistical needs and issues of existing industries.
The Shop Rome program, funded largely through the annual Chamber Business Expo each November, will also take on new life. Chamber leadership is consistently reminding local shoppers that by spending money with local companies they are keeping more money in the local economy. Krueger said she has already had two meetings with different leaders across the community to talk about the marketing of Rome and Floyd County.
“We want to be able to collaborate and help each other out. It just makes sense to combine resources and make our look bolder and more appealing across the state and nation,” Krueger said.
“We will broaden our leadership programs,” Krueger added. Both the adult and high school leadership programs will be expanded to provide additional opportunities to engage with more bright young minds.
The chamber will also spend a little more energy marketing its health care program, which flows down from the state chamber.
“We are seeing a lot of our local small businesses sign up for the plan. It’s a way that if a small business can’t afford health care they can now get health care through the chamber with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, but you have to be a member,” Krueger said.