Local and regional representatives of small business, industry, commercial real estate and economic development gathered at the Clarence Brown Conference Center for a presentation of the prior year's accomplishments and view for the community's future.
Melinda Lemmon, executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development, read to those in attendance, the names of 21 Bartow County companies who made announcements of growth and investment during 2011.
"On behalf of the entire county, to these companies, 'Thank you for the jobs and investment in our community," Lemmon said, reciting a list of 19 manufacturers, one educational institution and the much anticipated LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center project. "Economic development is not just industrial development, it's actually the creation of wealth in the community. So, industrial is a component of that but we also have other forums. In our particular community, our specialty is industrial but we have divisions that represent small business, that represent downtown development and ... tourism development."
Giving attention to department of economic development staff members, Lemmon took an opportunity during the presentation to thank Information Specialist Connie Salter, Existing Industry Director Rachel Rowell and Special Projects Coordinator Tyler Edwards. Breaking down some of the departmental operations of 2011, Lemmon went into detail on what their office accomplished.
"Our staff provided resources for 130 existing industries. We marketed over 70 industrial buildings, nearly 40 industrial properties plus commercial and office properties. We hosted special events, including bus tours for project managers, job tax credit seminars and manufacturing appreciation events," Lemmon said. "We worked with 20 potential expansion projects and 20 potential new projects. Of those 40 leads, here are those results. Twenty-one announcements resulted in over $207 million in new capital investment and 722 permanent jobs for our community. From at least two of those projects, over 950 construction jobs have resulted or will result."
Also speaking Tuesday to the community's success in 2011 was Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Frank Harris Jr., Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Ellen Archer and Cartersville Downtown Development Executive Director Liz Hood.
Lemmon also touched on some of the challenges faced by the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development as other economic development agencies across the nation compete for the same jobs and investment dollars.
"Each year, 1,500 projects in the U.S. are seeking to relocate and there are 15,000 of us economic developers vying for those projects," Lemmon said. "According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, annually 800 projects look at the state. Less than 20 percent will typically locate in the state and typically half are from existing industries."
Bartow, along with many communities, is still working to fill an inventory of existing buildings which have saturated the market following the economic downfall.
Organizers of the annual meeting were hopeful Tuesday as signs of a recovery strengthen. The 21 announcements made in 2011 make up nearly a quarter of such announcements made in the past eight years combined since complete records were available.