The Union Recorder

November 14, 2013

Existing business surveys show promise

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Existing businesses and industries offered informative feedback about the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County through Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP) surveys.

Development Authority of Milledgeville-Baldwin County Executive Director Matt Poyner revealed the results from the 83 participants at Wednesday’s Chamber Eggs & Issues breakfast.

Six months of one-on-one interviews went into the final BREP report. 

“This is where we get out in the community to survey companies and find out what their needs are and what they are looking to do,” Poyner said. “These existing companies are the lifeblood of our community. We want to be there to assist them.”

The 20-page, 100-question survey remains confidential, so company reps can speak candidly about the community. 

The BREP documents showed several upcoming industry expansions totaling 569 new jobs. Due to confidentiality, Poyner can’t name specifics yet.

“During these tough times, we have companies that are expanding and adding services. That’s a good thing to know about,” he said.

• Workforce evaluation

The community does have a younger workforce pool for the future. While worker availability remains high, responding companies didn’t feel the quality was at its peak.

Foundational work skills such as appropriate dress, communication and punctuality were points of improvement.

Workforce education will benefit labor pool marketability.

“We’ve got to get that workforce up to par. It’s amazing to hear some of these companies’ issues with stuff we take for granted sometimes,” he said.

Keeping quality educated college students in Milledgeville was also a concern.

“We’ve got these great kids graduating, but we don’t have anything for them to stay here for,” Poyner said.

Front-end staffing attitudes have hurt industry prospects.

Poyner said large retail chains send in spies to eat at restaurants and shop.

“Within the last year and a half or so, we’ve lost a large steakhouse and Italian restaurant because they are speaking with employees and front end staff, and these people aren’t being positive about Baldwin County,” Poyner said. “That’s a concern. We are losing opportunities because we aren’t putting out that smiling face to everybody.”

• Community strengths

Central Georgia Technical College, Georgia College and Georgia Military College have kept the town alive. Existing industries notice.

“Everybody said without them, where would we be?” the development authority director said.

Lake Sinclair remains a major recreation asset. Also, the small-town feel and loyal customers boost Milledgeville’s profile.

“We have a lot to offer as a small community that others can’t,” Poyner said.

Organizations like the Oconee River Greenway Authority, Downtown Development Authority and Milledgeville Main Street continually make an impact on companies’ community support.

Utilities, emergency response and a regional hospital made received high marks.

“Across the board, the overall opinion of the community was positive. We have very few people that were negative,” Poyner said. “It makes me feel good about the future of Baldwin County.”

• Internet access and speed lacking

“This is an area we heard some concern,” Poyner said. “We’ll say the majority of companies did have complaints about their services and being knocked offline.”

Internet providers are upgrading switches. Poyner said local Internet companies continue to fix infrastructure.

Middle Georgia recently earned more than $5 million from the federal government to upgrade broadband service.

Baldwin County got more than $900,000 of the funding.

“That’s exciting to know we are getting help to upgrade our service. All of our manufacturing companies need this huge amount of broadband for Internet because their systems are run off smart machines requiring this technology,” Poyner said.

Information and video from Wednesday’s BREP presentation can be found at www.milledgevillega.com.

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