A Red Carpet Tour and its lessons for our community

They came to Georgia from approximately 15 states and 5 foreign countries. Each of them are highly successful business people who represent companies ranging from manufacturing to bio-tech. The magnet to attract them was not the opportunity to spend time with yours truly, but rather the chance to spend two days at some golf tournament in Augusta where a fellow named after a ferocious mammal would be playing. During the second week of April, I had the pleasure of joining this group while serving as a state host for the Annual Red Carpet Tour of Georgia. The four-day event was sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Industry Trade and Tourism and has played a significant economic development role for our state and community.

Don Panos of Elan Pharmaceutical, Chateau Elan, and Road Atlanta located in Hall County after participating on the tour, as well as, Rick Boyd of StitchTech, Advanced Technology Extrusions, and Mugele of America.

Spending time with 40 business owners or representatives provided a great deal of insight into the business atmosphere, as well as lessons for our community to keep in mind as we seek to expand our existing businesses or locate new businesses into our county.

Each of these people make decisions…. big decisions. Whether working as a site locator for another company or for their own, their decision to locate a company may involve millions of dollars invested and influence the lives of many employees. One of the words used by many of them to describe the setting they were looking for was a “seamless experience.” By this, they were describing the need for a state and a community to work together to remove as many problems and challenges so that their decision to locate is made all the easier. Is the community proactive in their approach to business? Will they work with my company to assure success? Is there a central group with whom I may work in order to make this a “seamless experience?”

A second insight derived from this experience is the incredible competition which exists in this current business climate. Many of these successful businesses are being recruited by states throughout the nation as well as many of our neighbors here in Georgia. In addition to the “seamless experience,” they also stressed the importance of incentives to locate, quality of the workforce, transportation and overall quality of life. I was particularly pleased that quality of life registered so high on their list. With each of these decisions the bottom line is important, but I believe that these decision-makers are also looking for a certain atmosphere of growth, success, and community enjoyment. Like a good marriage, they want open communication, a long term commitment and a nice honeymoon.

Our community has been extremely fortunate to have fostered an atmosphere of success for business growth and development. Central to this success has been visionary leadership, an effective Chamber of Commerce, cooperative efforts among decision-makers, quality and quantity of workforce and a unique quality of life. If we are to continue this level of success, we must take seriously the lessons taught by these business people. Our economic development efforts have long been admired by other communities (particularly our Economic Development Council made up of the Chamber, the governments of Hall County, Gainesville, Oakwood and Flowery Branch), but past success will not guarantee our future economic expansions.

If we keep our own Red Carpet to Hall County unrolled and headed in the right direction then we will continue to prosper. If we don’t heed these lessons, our competition will gladly take our place. Let’s keep working together to keep our community carpet “red” and not let it turn to a lovely shade of avocado green, seventies shag!