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Commentary: State, local collaboration helps spur todays economic growth
0331Tim Evans
Tim Evans

In January, the Georgia Economic Developers Association hosted more than 50 state legislators at a luncheon to celebrate economic development accomplishments over the past 12 months. We also launched a year of celebration complete with a proclamation from Gov. Nathan Deal, as 2013 marks GEDA’s 50th Anniversary.

Looking back 50 years ago, Gainesville and the entire state was still in the midst of a slow economic recovery. It had only been just over a decade since the state’s tax digest reached the level it had before the Civil War devastated our economy.

Because of the work of visionary people like Henry W. Grady and William B. Hartsfield, the state was ready when World War II brought a massive infusion of federal dollars here for military bases, shipyards, plants and factories. This capital investment quickly moved Georgia toward the “New South” of industrialization that Grady and Hartsfield envisioned.

Competition within Georgia for this capital investment was fierce. But by the early 1960s, Georgia’s industrial developers were beginning to see the potential in working together. They gradually grew warmer toward the concept of collaboration and cooperation and made it official with GEDA’s formation in 1963. This level of teamwork has given Georgia an advantage over other states, and has been a key factor in Georgia’s phenomenal economic transformation since that time.

GEDA has refined its mission through the years while keeping a laser focus: serving as a resource for economic development professionals and lending a leadership voice on issues affecting economic development policies and regulations.

Early on, the organization led an initiative to establish sales-and-use tax exemptions on industrial machinery and supported the creation of local development authorities. GEDA provided leadership support for the constitutional amendment establishing the Freeport Inventory Tax Exemption. More recently, members supported legislation that created the OneGeorgia program and that expanded the use of Tax Allocation Districts.

Fifty years strong, GEDA is one of the leading organizations for economic development professionals in the southern U.S. I am proud that this community has supported my membership since 2005, and I was a member for 10 years before that.

GEDA members reflect the multifaceted nature of economic development, which has grown to include manufacturing, commercial and retail, tourism, conventions and small business. Practitioners are active in everything from entrepreneurship and workforce preparedness to research commercialization and international trade. We take advantage of professional development opportunities provided by GEDA in order to learn how to market our cities and counties to specific industries and businesses best suited for our communities.

We economic developers do not create jobs, but we provide the critical information and assistance to companies that do. We work hand in hand with government and business to secure investment and reinvestment in our communities, creating a higher standard of living for our residents.

Yes, it is a time to celebrate. In 2012, Georgia’s economic developers secured $7.8 billion of investment by locating and expanding businesses and 25,000 new jobs for Georgians. Additionally, the 2012 General Assembly addressed many of GEDA’s legislative priorities from the past several years, ensuring sustainable resources and tools to continue bringing new jobs and investment to our state.

While the work of GEDA members today is invisible to many of us, we will surely continue to feel the impact of their work for at least the next 50 years.

Tim Evans is vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Gainesville-Hall Economic Development Council. He currently serves as second vice chairman of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

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