Ensuring there are enough qualified workers may be the most critical job confronting economic developers across Northwest Georgia, according to speakers at a Georgia Power regional economic development summit.
Representatives from 12 counties attended the Monday event hosted by Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rome.
Peter Cervelli is executive director of the Dade County Industrial Development Authority. He said representatives from prospective industries have questioned him about the availability of workers in the extreme northwest corner of the state.
Volkswagen in Chattanooga is adding close to a thousand employees, and a new Vanguard trailer plant is slated to open in August with close to 400 jobs.
“They are concerned about where the workforce is coming from,” Cervelli said, referring to unnamed prospects.
“Everybody asks where are the people going to come from,” echoed Andy Camp, vice president for economic development at Carroll Tomorrow in Carroll County.
There are some local initiatives underway.
Melinda Lemmon with the Cartersville Bartow County Department of Economic Development and Al Hodge, president of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, each touted the college and career academies in their communities as critical suppliers of future employees.
And Camp announced a new Carrollton Carroll County Education Collaborative — involving the University of West Georgia and West Georgia Technical College — that will partner with community officials in a workforce development initiative.
Development officials from Heard to Fannin counties took turns touting recent successes and most said new projects are anticipated in coming months.
“Boundaries don’t mean much to the economy,” Camp pointed out.
While the communities compete with each other for new industry, major development in one often results in jobs for residents across the region.
Phil Cavin, director of economic development from Chattooga County, said Mohawk is planning another expansion of its facility in Summerville. The plant is slated to add another 100-150 jobs.
Lemmon said Bartow expects to announce three new companies this year, although they’re not ready to name them yet.
Hodge reported that SYKES Enterprises, a call center company out of Denver, would be setting up shop in the Berry Corporate Center off Technology Parkway. Details are expected at a press conference scheduled for Aug. 3.
Eric McDonald, president of the Greater Haralson County Chamber of Commerce, said he expects an auto supplier to make a major announcement for his community in October.
“Many of the old albatross, ugly buildings are being taken,” said McDonald.
Two of the old Hubbard textile plants in Bremen have been repurposed for Dealer Cabinetry, he said.