Thursday, December 11, 2008

'If not this ...'

I always thought that Doc Eldridge was asking the right question when he said 'if not this, then what' during a public hearing for NBAF, and it was really good to see his thoughts on how to answer that inquiry.

The most glaring thing that must be addressed - and the recent decision from the state to award a $3.1 million grant to launch a career academy in Athens-Clarke County is a great start - is that concerning the area's workforce. Time and time again, one of the rationales given by businesses for passing over this area is the lack of a properly trained workforce.

I'd also like to see everyone get a little more hands-on - from the elected official to the 'Average Joe' on the street - in attracting business to the community. Sitting back and waiting on projects to land in our laps is a faulty strategy, and I'm optimistic the regional economic group that's being proposed can really addressed this situation.

I was in Augusta recently, and we swung by The Fresh Market. Seeing how it's my favorite grocery store, I picked up franchising information not so I could launch another business venture, but rather so I could begin a dialogue on why it is we don't have one in this area (I still say it's maddening one hasn't located in the Homewood Hills Shopping Center). The folks I contacted to express my desire for having one locate here were gracious enough, arguably surprised and seemed pleased to hear of my support, and they noted that this area has been on their long-term growth plan ... and they said if folks want one to come there, to let them know because community demand and enthusiasm is a huge factor when they opt to expand.

Now, I ain't saying that I'm going to singlehandedly bring The Fresh Market here or that one service-based business is going to remedy our economic development woes. What I am saying is that it's important to be a part of the discussion, even if you're just a guy who writes a blog.

And that attitude should permeate throughout our approach to this. Personally, I'd like to see us develop some undeveloped corridors as distribution centers (the Highway 441 area leading out toward Commerce seems like it would be a good place to launch some sort of 'distrution park'), and I'm going to sound like a broken record as I again advocate for a concerted plan to transform the entire Northeast Georgia into a hub of the emerging green economy. You've got the manufacturing and research base in Athens-Clarke County and the necessary rural components in the surrounding counties.

The point being ... it's time to not only have a productive conservation on what we ought to do, it's also time to actually get that plan in place and start implementing it.


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