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Existing industries program begun

While almost everyone would like to see new industries and businesses come to town, the Covington County Economic Development Commission is also concerned about keeping the existing businesses going strong.

"Statistics indicate that communities may expect up to 80 percent of their new capital investment and job creation to come from their existing industry base," said Dawn Ryals, the Research/Existing Industries Coordinator for the CCEDC. "In 2002, Shaw Industries created 120 new jobs and invested $22 million in capital."

With this concern in mind, the commission has begun its existing industry visitation program, in which Ryals will visit the industries in Covington County, acting as a liaison and facilitator at plant manager and human resources manager meetings.

"This is not to say

that the Covington County Economic Development Commission will be lax in its efforts to recruit new industry," Ryals said. "Tucson Roberts is working diligently with potential prospects and CCEDC continues its commitment to growth."

She added that since 2000, the county has added five new industries, providing 496 new jobs. Her focus, however, will be on those industries already established.

"I don't want our existing industry to be ignored. I don't want them to feel like one day they're in the spotlight and once the honeymoon is over, they're ignored. I want our companies who have been with us from one to 100 years to know they are important to our community," she said. "The fact is, they are vital to our community. If we can help existing industries expand and prosper, we are helping the citizens of our county prosper."

At the manager meetings, Ryals plans to coordinate events that will allow the managers from different companies to get together and discuss some of their issues and concerns with other managers.

"I will be there just to facilitate," she said. "We want them to know the CCEDC will express their concerns and will get in touch with the proper local officials and have an answer for them. It will be extremely important to establish credibility. I will regard confidentiality as a top priority."

Ryals also plans to use the program to keep companies up to date on the latest training available, as well as new information concerning incentives.

"There may be a time when legislative issues arise that might warrant change," she said. "Without those meetings, we may not get to hear the needs of these companies, but by giving these managers a forum for discussion, their needs have a better chance of being met."

Ryals looks forward to visiting the plants, hearing the concerns and issues of each industry, and working with all of them.

"I hope all the manufacturing and distribution companies get involved," she said. "We don't want anyone to think that just because they are a small company, with one or two employees, that they won't benefit from those meetings or that they won't make a difference. I personally worked in my father's business for 13 years, rewinding electric motors, before I returned to college to complete my degree in business. I can relate to these business owners. I know the hard work and sacrifices they have made for their company's success."

CCEDC plans to sponsor an annual Existing Industry Recognition program.

"My goal is to have more representatives for existing industry to participate," she said. "This is an excellent opportunity for our local officials, state agencies, our CCEDC Board, our Industrial Development Board, and local businesses to say 'Thank you' to our industries. It also gives our existing industries a chance to shine and be rewarded."