Trend Radar: November 2007

New job for Mike Vollmer, West Georgia heats up, industry from China and green driving.

Back In The Saddle: When Mike Vollmer retired from 30 years of public service to his state, he envisioned a future that would unfold at a leisurely pace. But he barely had time to get to a recliner and a good book before he was drafted for a new career as the city manager of Tifton, his hometown.

Vollmer, former commissioner of the Department of Technical and Adult Education, served as president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and director of the HOPE scholarship program. But the well-known and well-connected Vollmer has no intention of being just a caretaker city manager.

Vollmer plans to be active in regional economic development and is dead serious about decentralizing state government and moving offices out of Atlanta, and, he hopes, to Tifton where a secretary of state department has been located for years.

“If you start decentralizing government services, first you serve your citizens better,” he says. “And maybe you could start reducing some of that congestion up in Atlanta.”

There also is an economic value to the idea. “I was just talking with someone here in Tifton who is renting office space in a downtown building and they are paying just $2 a square foot,” Vollmer says. “I think there is a savings in decentralizing.”

West Georgia Heats Up: The domino effect is kicking in around west Georgia in anticipation of the Kia manufacturing plant in West Point that is scheduled to begin production in 2009.

Auto plant supplier Hyundai Mobis announced in August it would locate a facility near the West Point Kia plant, a promise that could mean as many as 600 jobs and $60 million in investment. Another auto plant vendor, Pretty Products, quickly announced it would add 130 jobs and invest $6.5 million in its LaGrange facility. And a nearby Troup County location was selected for a 90,000-square-foot building by DaeLim USA, an auto supplier subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works.

More than 800 new jobs will have been created when the three suppliers begin deliveries at the end of 2008, and there are prospects for even greater economic growth.

“We’re getting more and more calls every day,” says Jane Fryer, president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. “And I think the suppliers are not all going to locate in Troup County. I think they will spread it around. I think Harris County will get one; Muscogee County will get some, and so on.”

The activity in the auto-manufacturing sector, coupled with a booming military and civilian population at Fort Benning as the base’s mission continues to expand, is providing the West Georgia region with historic growth. And it will continue, Fryer says. “There is a tremendous amount of work going into providing incentive packages for the suppliers,” she says. “We are getting set to make another announcement.”

Fryer says new business location announcements will be coming from retail and residential developments, as well.

Banking Boom: Atlanta’s Georg-ian Bank is boasting – and boosting – a high speed growth that saw its assets leap to $2 billion following a an injection of $50 million in new capital, as well as new leadership, four years ago.

Bank officials say the institution, chartered in 2001, has developed a carefully crafted marketing technique to fuel its growth. “We have a very focused market niche,” says Georgian Bank Vice President Jean Creech Avent. “That includes business owners, entrepreneurs, professional services companies, such as attorneys, doctors and CPAs, and high net worth individuals.”

The young bank has tracked population growth for the Atlanta area and has followed with offices in Alpharetta, Buckhead, the Cumber-land Mall area and Gwinnett County. “The population growth has not slowed down and is not scheduled to slow down,” Avent says.

Enter The Dragon: The Georgia- China economic connection strengthened with the September announcement that Sany Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. will put a heavy construction equipment manufacturing plant in Peachtree City. The Sany factory will employ 200 and pour $30 million into its investment over a five-year period.

Sany’s follows an earlier announcement by Ningbo Lehui Food Machinery Co., Ltd. that it would bring 200 jobs to Newnan, along with an investment that could reach $15 million. Ningbo Lehui manufactures food-processing machinery.

Green Driving: Atlanta’s Green Express has become the first courier company in the nation to switch to hybrid cars. The hybrids use 46 percent less gas than traditional vehicles and get 47 miles to the gallon. The company also is using GPS to get its couriers from point A to point B along shorter, less congested routes in Atlanta and 16 surrounding counties, hoping to stay out of the gas guzzling gridlock that eats up time for commuters and couriers.

GPS also ensures Green Express drivers take accurate routes on their routes. “One wrong turn can waste a gallon of gas every day times 10 cars; that’s at least 2,200 gallons a year,” says a company press release.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features