By Justin Faruqhar
Over the last several weeks, the Development Authority of Bryan County (DABC) has been diligently working to adapt to the new economic times in which we find ourselves. Not since 1918 has our nation faced a public health crisis such as the one we currently face. As we watched the longest bull market in US history come to an end and unemployment claims begin to rise around the nation, we knew that now, more than ever was a time to focus on serving as a resource for local industrial employers.
In early March, we began a program of personal outreach to our existing industries like AGCO and Express Packaging to learn how we may be able to assist them during these uncertain times. Whether a company needed assistance finding a grocery store with essential supplies still in stock, a connection to local cleaning services to help maintain a hygienic work environment, or resources to learn more about stimulus-funded relief programs, we have been here to help.
In addition to reaching out to existing industries here in Bryan County, we have worked in collaboration with our regional economic development partners in Bulloch, Chatham, Effingham, and Screven Counties to try and understand the impacts of the covid-19 outbreak on industries in the region. We were encouraged to learn that employment levels at many area industrial companies have been unaffected by the pandemic. Some industries have expanded employment to meet increased demand for certain products. To help these industries fill open positions, and to provide a resource for workers searching for new opportunities, including those displaced by the pandemic, we have created with our regional partners an online job board. Anyone interested in browsing the available opportunities in the five-county area can do so at savannahjda.com/job-opportunities. You may also find this link, along with a variety of links to other local, state, and federal resources, on the DABC’s covid-19 resource page at bryancountyga.com/covid-19.
While maintaining close contact with local industries and our regional partners has taken priority over the last several weeks, we have not forgotten that it is also important to remain proactive in marketing our community to potential new industries. We have continued to work on industry recruitment projects while also working on the other initiatives outlined above, and I am glad to say that we have a strong pipeline of potential prospects, which is a good sign for our community. The allure of Bryan County is so strong that not even a global pandemic can keep industrial companies from considering our community for their new ventures!
The onset of the covid-19 pandemic has brought out the very best in our community. There is a widespread sentiment of shared purpose that has united local government, industries, businesses, and non-profits. We have been fortunate to participate in a weekly Zoom call organized by the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce and United Way, where we all share updates on all the measures our organizations are taking to help families and businesses in need. This sense of shared purpose is exemplified in stories that are shared on these calls like Bryan County Schools continuing to serve thousands of meals each day and Caesarstone donating hundreds of N95 masks to local first responders and healthcare providers.
While there are undoubtedly many challenges yet to come, we stand ready to face them with our local and regional partners.
Faruqhar is director of business recruitment and existing industry for the Development Authority of Bryan County.