Jimmy Byars (left), chairman of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, presents a contract packet to Melissa “Missy” Kendrick, who was hired Tuesday as the new president of economic development for Rome and Floyd County. She is expected to start her duties in Rome on Aug. 1.

It’s good to be moving away from the economic recruitment limbo we’ve been in.

This week the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority named Missy Kendrick as the person who will take on the task of recruiting new industries to this area, and she seems like she’ll be a good fit.

After citing some of the industries brought to this area by her Rome Floyd Chamber predecessor Al Hodge — Pirelli, Neaton, F&P Georgia and Suzuki — City Manager Sammy Rich jokingly said to her “no pressure.”

The big shoes she’s got to fill have been empty and in flux for a while. For the past two decades, Hodge as the Rome Floyd Chamber president held the role of heading up the recruitment of new industries.

Kendrick has a good track record and high praise from her counterparts in Polk County (she’s been heading up their development authority since September 2016) and we’re excited to see Rome and Floyd County’s industrial recruitment role filled and, hopefully, we’re back on track.

Backing her up in the new position comes Hodge’s right-hand woman Heather Seckman, the director of economic development for the Rome Floyd Chamber. She’s moving over to take the project manager position in the new office of economic development.

If you’ve met Seckman, you’ll know she can throw out local economic development figures off the top of her head. She’s got the contacts, knows our community and is certainly the right fit for the job.

Back to the “big four” as they’re known in local business circles — Pirelli, Neaton, F&P Georgia and Suzuki — they set up shop and there have been several expansions and upgrades leading to jobs locally.

Expansions generally don’t get the big headlines like new industries coming to town do, but they bring in new jobs. International Paper, Bekaert, Profile Custom Extrusions and Mohawk are a few industries in Floyd County that have had sizable expansions.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget Lowe’s.

Legs on the bar stool

While our neighbors along the I-75 corridor seem to continue to draw new manufacturers, let’s not forget that incremental growth is commendable as well.

Of course, when talking about business in the past decade we can’t forget the effect of the great recession. All businesses suffered to one degree or another and Suzuki appeared to take the brunt. Lately, however the business appears to be making a comeback and that’s good to see.

So here’s the question — how do we show prospective industries that these businesses have prospered while in our area? That’s a question which is above my pay grade, but hopefully Kendrick will figure it out.

Also, taking a look at the available land for industrial recruitment once we fill the 100-acre slot in the property at Ga. 140 and Ga. 53 — what is available?

There’s some Berry Corporate Center land off Technology Parkway, but if we’re selling the possibility of a 411 connector in our lifetimes, shouldn’t we be looking for the possibility of land on U.S. 411? Just a thought — and one that is easier said than done.

With the successes there also come the busts (notably TransDev which used to be housed in the former State Mutual building on Technology Parkway).

As Hodge used to say, and probably still does, there are three legs to the bar stool of creating jobs — attracting new industry, expanding existing industry and bringing in startups. We’ve had some notable startups in the area. For example, BrandRed and Romega seem to be doing well for themselves.

So while we haven’t had the perceived industrial “home run” locally, there may be a hint of the “grass is always greener” to that view.

Going forward

The Rome Floyd Chamber — headed up by Interim President Jeanne Krueger — has continued to do some outstanding work.

This year alone Georgia-Pacific announced a $30 million plan to acquire and install new equipment at its lumber mill on Mays Bridge Road. Also, the chamber has been instrumental in forging a public-private partnership to get a $22.3 million natural gas pipeline upgrade to serve International Paper as it converts two coal-fired boilers to natural gas.

But along with those big announcements they’re working constantly to serve and promote local businesses and existing industries.

Bringing people together is one of the chamber’s underlying purposes. For instance, they brought Georgia Tech professors to tour local businesses in order to better understand how to get their students ready for the workforce. Also they brought in new members of the Redmond Regional Medical Center Residency Program to learn about fun things to do in the area.

Let’s not forget programs the chamber puts together to bring students from local high schools and college campuses together with local businesses to let students know the jobs available to them in each industry.

That keeps local talent ... well, local.

They’re providing that kind of attention that keeps customers — in this case businesses — here instead of going elsewhere.

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