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It Takes a Region
by Chamber News on June 20th, 2014

For many years, Valdosta-Lowndes has worked diligently to become South Georgia’s hub for economic growth and expansion. Local institutions like Moody Air Force Base, South Georgia Medical Center, Valdosta State University and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College have contributed to the region’s success and increasing population by way of revenue, human capital and jobs. In addition, many other community organizations and small businesses work to help the area and its inhabitants grow and prosper.
 
The economic growth of Metro Valdosta would not be possible without the collaboration of the area authorities and governing organizations. Partnerships between the city and county elected officials, Industrial Authority, Tourism Authority, SBDC, South Georgia Military Affairs Council, and Chamber underscore the effort to ensure the progressive improvement of the community. Each of these organizations focuses its efforts on bringing more people, business and revenue to the Valdosta area, ultimately contributing to the growth of the entire region.
 
By coming together for the good of the region, each group is able to better help the community. “We each have our jobs to do, but working together and being aware of what everyone else has going on allows us to support one another,” says Tim Riddle of the Valdosta-Lowndes Tourism Authority. “Mutual support of our endeavors helps us all to be successful; knowledge of what is on the front-burner for our counterparts allows us to aid in their efforts, and each of us helps the others in that way.”
 
In order to bring more business to the area, the Chamber of Commerce works with the SEEDS Business Resource Center to assist anyone interested in entrepreneurial opportunities. The two organizations work together analyzing demographics, consumer spending, consumer leagues, business leagues and industry reports to provide new businesses with necessary information as well as guides to starting a business - all free of charge, due to a sponsorship from Georgia Power Company. In addition, the Chamber is also contacted by other chambers in the area through SEEDS regarding businesses in other areas. Through strategic planning, the chambers are able to determine the best placement for new businesses based on the type of services they will offer.
 
In addition to the SEEDS Center, the Chamber also works closely with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, an organization which began within the Chamber itself. The Industrial Authority focuses on recruiting large businesses and manufacturers to the Valdosta area by assisting interested organizations in finding tax breaks and purchasing land. The two organizations are also currently working together in an effort to educate the upcoming workforce through high school and secondary education programs. Through increased educational efforts, local students will graduate as qualified workers for higher wage jobs.  
 
In further effort to provide the region with a well-prepared workforce, the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber has also partnered with the Adel-Cook, Ashburn-Turner, Douglas-Coffee, Lakeland-Lanier, Moultrie-Colquitt, Quitman-Brooks, and Worth County-Sylvester Chambers of Commerce to present the Drugs Don’t Work Program. This partnership is intended to provide a quality work force for South Georgia by instituting drug tests upon hiring, following on-the-job accidents and random testing throughout the year. The program is proudly sponsored by Peaceway Counseling and Mediation Services, Inc.
 
The Chamber also partners with local businesses to operate Right Start, a program designed to provide newcomers to Moody Air Force Base with information about the Metro Valdosta area. Right Start meets each incoming group of airmen to present what the community has to offer, describing local commerce, education, and area entertainment.
 
Moody AFB is one of the largest economic engines in the Metro Valdosta area, and the South Georgia Military Affairs Council aims to keep it that way. The quad-county group meets regularly to develop new strategies for making the base a regional economic mainstay. “Airmen who come to Moody have families,” says Varian Brown, Director of Economic Development at the Chamber. “They bring their spouses who work and shop in town. They have children who attend the schools. They purchase goods and services, worship in our churches and, hopefully, retire and stay here. That is why it is important that the base continues to thrive in our area.”
 
In terms of regional branding, Valdosta has become the “medical mecca” of South Georgia due to the developments in information and environmental technology and the medical service based businesses in the area. The formation of a regional partnership between Valdosta State University, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and South Georgia Medical Center has gained momentum and will soon reach full speed with the introduction of the new Health and Sciences Administration building. The center will provide training for VSU and WGTC students and will increase the variety of medical degrees available in the area. This kind of development is critical for new businesses in the area with regard to both personal and employee healthcare.
 
With solid partnerships across the various area authorities, Metro Valdosta will continue to grow as the economic hub of South Georgia in the coming years, creating a better living environment and quality of life for all.
 
For more information about regional growth efforts, please contact Varian Brown at (229)247-8100 ext. 234 or vbrown@valdostachamber.com.
 


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