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Trip notes utility's role in economic development
Chamber group visits resource site in Atlanta
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Forsyth County News

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About 20 leaders with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce visited Atlanta on Monday to learn more about economic development.

The group traveled to the Georgia Resource Center in Midtown. The facility is shared by Georgia Power and some state government offices that help attract new businesses to the state.

During their visit, the local leaders heard from Georgia Power representatives who work on economic development.

Emelyne Williams, Georgia Power communications coordinator, said many people may be surprised to learn that the utility is so involved with state economic development.

“We are actually the oldest statewide economic development organization in Georgia,” she said. “This is our 85th year. We started in 1927, so we’ve been recruiting business and industry to the state much longer than the state has.”

She noted that the state government didn’t begin economic development endeavors until after World War II.

“And then more so in the 1970s and ’80s when state incentives really came on the playing field for recruiting new business,” she said.

Williams said Georgia Power helps recruit businesses to all corners of the state, not just those it serves.

“At the economic development level, we represent the entire state, all 159 counties in Georgia,” she said. “We believe Georgia Power benefits either directly or indirectly from all projects that choose Georgia.”

Fran Forehand, a Georgia Power region manager who sits on the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce board, said groups such as Monday’s often are invited to the center.

“We want guests to come down because we really want them to learn about these services and how to help spur economic development,” Forehand said.

During the visit, the group heard about the process Georgia Power uses to help prospective businesses learn more about the state and what areas would best suit their needs, as well as the technological tools used in the process.

It was also noted how the center can provide assistance to existing businesses in Georgia.

For example, one businessman who attended the meeting said center staff helped him plan how to create more parking for his firm despite some hilly terrain.

Georgia Power leaders stressed all Georgia Resource Center services are free.

“We really want to advertise these services to let people know to just call us, just ask us,” Forehand said. “Regardless of how weird you might think the request is, to us it’s a challenge and we want you to bring those different challenges to us.”

Participants also were encouraged to do their part to help recruit to Forsyth County.

“This meeting was organized in order to provide a comprehensive overview of economic development within the state and how Georgia Power as a utility provider plays a key role in that process,” said Randall Toussaint, the chamber’s vice president of economic development.

“But more specifically, this event was hosted to provide an in-depth assessment of how, as community leaders, we can play a more active role in the economic development activities that are taking place.”

The group was encouraged to think of a short “elevator speech” that would highlight positive qualities about Forsyth that they could give to anyone who asked.

They were also encouraged to support existing businesses.

“One key point in economic development is to link prospective businesses to other business already in your community,” said Brenda Robbins, an economic development project manager. “Probably our No. 1 message is to keep your existing businesses happy.”

Amanda Anderson, with Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Cumming, called the meeting “a good way to spend a Monday morning.”

“I was really excited to come today,” she said. “Seeing everything [Georgia Power] can do and all that the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta and Forsyth County are doing to encourage economic growth is huge because that plays a huge part in our company and how we stay afloat.”