Even in retirement, Ronnie Evans is no stranger to economic development.
Though recently reappointed to another term on the Development Authority of Bartow County, Evans has more than 25 years of experience with developing local economies. Beginning with a position in Georgia Power dedicated to economic development, through his work with the development authority and the Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority — where he serves as secretary — Evans has worked on numerous projects across northwest Georgia. Among his achievements are working on the Adairsville Industrial Park and being part of the team that brought Toyo Tire to Bartow County.
Name: Ronnie Evans
Occupation: Retired from Georgia Power, Manager NW Region Economic Development
Family: Married to Glenda for 48 years; children, Amy Pinnow and Doug Evans and five wonderful grandchildren
Education: Graduate of Oconee County High School, North Georgia Tech College, Coosa Valley Technical College and Business Degree from ICS.
You were recently reappointed to the Development Authority of Bartow County, and serve on the first Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority, and previously worked with Georgia Power in economic development. What led to you to choose economic development as a career?
A: I was local manager with Georgia Power in Adairsville in mid-’80s and had the opportunity to work with community leaders to locate a Belgium Company (Princeton Carpet, now Beaulieu) and to create the Adairsville Industrial Park. In the early ’90s with the cooperation of the mayor, chamber of commerce and community leaders, the Georgia North Industrial Park was created. With this exposure to economic development I was asked by the VP of Economic Development with GPC to become the first region economic development representative in the state. Guess you could call me a guinea pig. Now there are seven region managers throughout Georgia.
<B>While working with Georgia Power, what role did you play in their economic development activities?
A: As region manager I covered 15 counties in Northwest Georgia, working with chamber of commerce’s and development authorities to provide them with materials and advice on making sure they were ready for economic development in their communities. Also making sure each community had their available buildings, industrial parks and sites on the state of Georgia’s marketing database.
The fun part of my job was to be project manager for industrial prospects coming into our region. If the project was looking for a site or building, it was my job to identify the best community (using their criteria) to recommend they look at. Next came the visit to the community chosen by the project. I would line up the visit, furnish transportation, car, van or helicopter— whatever fit the circumstances. At the end of process the project would choose the location and the community would end up with a Yanmar or Toyo locating to create jobs and tax base for Bartow County.
Is there a particular project you worked on that stands out in your memory?
A: I worked so many across the region, but the one here in Bartow had to be Toyo Tire. I had the privilege to work with Toyo’s site selection team when they made their first visit to Bartow County. The chamber, Cartersville-Bartow Economic Development was told that Toyo would build a facility in three phases, creating 300 jobs in the first phase and up to 900 in the third phase, and of course all of that is history. Toyo practically built all three phases at once, plus a fourth, and today Toyo is well over a million square feet and probably closing in on creating around 1400 jobs. What a blessing this company has had on Bartow County.
Have you seen any major changes in how local economies are grown or developed throughout your career?
A: Yes, early in my career all a community needed was a site located near an interstate highway with the promise that water and sewer is coming. Today an industry needs to be in operation quickly. Highland 75 is a prime example of what an industry is looking for, one mile from Interstate 75, all utilities and zoning in place — what folks in my profession call a Class A Business Park. The leadership in Cartersville and Bartow County should be commended for their forward vision on creating Highland 75; it will bring many jobs and a healthier tax base for our community.
What would you say is the greatest impact economic development efforts have had on Bartow County residents?
A: Just look around the county at the new businesses and jobs coming to Bartow County. Just to name a few, Shaw in Adairsville, LakePoint [Sporting Community] in Emerson, Academy Sports and voestalpine in Cartersville. Thanks to Melinda Lemmon and her staff at the Cartersville-Bartow County Economic Development Office, the area and region will continue to prosper.
If you had a dream job, what would it be?
A: I had a dream job that others within Georgia wanted. I’m still amazed that I was chosen for such an important role.
What is your greatest achievement?
A: My greatest would be the marriage to my wife, my two children and five grandchildren. In business it would be starting as a helper with GPC and ending my career with the position as region manager of economic development.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m pretty much an open book, but most folks don’t know that I was in the Army and served in Vietnam.
Do you have a personal motto?
A: If you don’t have anything good to say, just keep your mouth shut.
If you were to write your autobiography or memoirs, what would the title be?
A: Thank God for a wonderful ride.