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Officials look to improve the process
Communication, confidentiality just part of recruiting big industry
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It’s been said more than 100 people representing various governments and private entities were involved in the Development Authority of Bryan County’s landing of Caesarstone Technologies, the first manufacturer to set up shop in Richmond Hill’s Belfast Commerce Centre.

Some of those directly involved met Wednesday morning at the Richmond Hill City Center to discuss what they learned and how it can be done better the next time an industry comes calling.

Led by County Administrator Ray Pittman, the meeting provided insight into how the process worked in Caesarstone’s case, and how officials hope it works in the future.

Pittman said the goal of the meeting basically boils down to one thing.

“How can we improve our process … how can we improve our partnership?” he asked.

Over the next two hours, Pittman got plenty of answers.

While some of the group’s goals seemed contradictory — those who attended the meeting asked for both more communication and more confidentiality, better planning and more flexibility — all agreed it was important all the “moving parts” worked together well.

“It is a marriage,” said Georgia Power’s Charles Stallworth, who works as a facilitator on state economic development projects. “It really is a marriage and it’s about understanding what the goals are and how to move the marriage forward.”

Stallworth, along with Coastal EMC’s Mark Bolton, were among several from private companies who attended the meeting.

Also attending were representatives from Belfast Commerce Centre owner Rayonier and its real estate arm TerraPointe, state economic developer Renee Rosenheck and several elected and appointed officials from Richmond Hill, Bryan County and the DABC, whose new director, Anna Chafin, is expected to take a lead role in moving the DABC forward.

Chafin, who previously worked at the Liberty County Development Authority, is a perfect fit for Bryan County, Stallworth told those at the meeting.

“In the economic development business, Anna is respected throughout the whole state,” he said. “She’s one of the best in the business.”

Her request to officials was to be responsive.

“We have tremendous resources here and a lot of opportunities, and one thing that would help is for y’all to understand projects can be very fast moving. And while it’s called the site selection business, they’re actually in the site elimination business. They’re looking for reasons to eliminate us, and if we can’t respond quickly enough and accurately enough to their requests for information, we’re going to get eliminated.”

Chafin also asked for trust.

“By the time it gets to us, the state has vetted the project,” she said. “We have to put trust in them, and y’all have to put trust in the Development Authority. If we’re asking you for assistance but we can’t give you information, it’s because we don’t have a lot ourselves. We have to trust the state and you have to trust us and we have to trust every one of you here.”

Read more in the Jan. 11 edition of the News.

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