Milledgeville and Baldwin County leaders in economic development recognized several contributors and bade a fond farewell to two behind-the-scenes forces to the local engine Wednesday.
Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority board chair Dr. Jo Ann Jones and executive assistant Annette Ford were recognized for their years of service during the annual Economic Development Appreciation Day breakfast held in the Legislative Chambers at the Old Capital Building at Georgia Military College.
Ford has served as executive assistant to the Development Authority director for more than 15 years. Jones has served on the Development Authority board since 1999. She retired from Georgia College & State University in 2011 where she spent her career in Higher Education Administration and is the Dean Emeritus of the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business.
Guests at Wednesday’s breakfast included the other honorees along with former local Development Authority directors Angie Gheesling and Kathyjo Gordon. Gheesling, Houston County Development Authority executive director, and Gordon, Development Authority of Jones County director, expressed their appreciation to Jones and Ford for their tutelage early on in their careers.
Gheesling remarked that both women possess a special “stickability” that has been an asset to the local community.
Jones said the crux of work of economic development comes down to people.
“This is a people thing,” Jones said of her tenure on the Development Authority board. “Economic development ... it takes a village. I’m so pleased to have been a part of this village.”
Also recognized Wednesday was fellow outgoing board member Earl Seagle and Volunteer of the Year, Billy Matthews. The Baldwin County Board of Commissioners, Central Georgia Technical College, the City of Milledgeville, Doyle Beckham, Georgia College, Georgia Military College, Goebel Media Group, Lee & Turner accounting firm, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, Performance Food Group, The Brick, The Goodie Gallery and Bug House Pest Control were also recognized for their service and assistance to the Development Authority.
Executive Director Matt Poyner said the past 12 months in local economic development could not have been as fruitful without the support of local entities and board volunteers. Among the highlights of the year he touted was the recent clearing work completed at the industrial park. Poyner said 44 acres have been cleared at the park and are now “pad-ready” for prospects. Improvements have also been completed around the spec building. Two local industries underwent expansions this year, adding 75 new jobs, and Baldwin County is also on the short list for another major expansion, Poyner said.
He thanked the local city and county governments for their cooperation on the industrial park upgrades.
“They were extremely helpful in assisting,” he said. “We appreciate them working with us and being a partner for that development.”
Three-year projections based on the recent Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP) surveys suggest an additional 600 hires by current businesses and industry in the future.
While the field for new job prospects is highly competitive on the regional, state, national and global fronts, signs point to positives.
“We’re working very hard to move this community forward,” said Poyner. “The competition is fierce … but I’m confident we’re going in the right direction.”