11 Oct 2023

Highlights of the 2023 ECG Economic Development Summit

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“In the 21st-century model of economic development, it’s no longer the economic development professionals’ job to do economic development. It’s all our jobs. It’s city managers, elected officials, department heads, cities, and counties all have to focus on developing our communities.”

Remarks by Daryl Ingram, Sr. VP & CXO, at the ECG Economic Development Summit.

The 2023 Economic Development Summit was an immense success, inspiring and energizing participants. The event had informative sessions, engaging speakers, and valuable networking opportunities. Attendees received valuable insights into the latest economic development news and trends, leaving them fully equipped to tackle modern business challenges.

As he welcomed attendees, Daryl urged the attendees to reach across the aisle, introduce themselves, and learn from each other! “You represent the best of Georgia. You are part of the secret sauce of why Georgia is the best place to do business for the 10th year in a row.”

It’s no longer just about industrial recruitment, it’s about housing, downtowns, retail corridors, and quality of life because we are dealing with a different group and generation that has different needs that are looking for experiences,” said Daryl. “It is imperative that we must be diverse in how we prepare our communities and create environments for our communities.”


Awards Presentations

During the opening of the 2023 Economic Development Summit, Walter West, President & CEO of ECG, and Arthur Corbin, President & CEO of the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, on behalf of their respective companies, accepted the alliance commemoration plaque for the Georgia Energy Cities Statewide Economic Development Alliance.

The award serves to celebrate and honor the alliance, acknowledging the shared vision, mutual respect, and dedication to excellence that have harmoniously brought these organizations together. Together, they stand to be a beacon of innovation, collaboration and success, as they work to achieve a common goal of Growing Georgia Together.

The City of Sylvester, was recognized at the 2023 ECG Economic Development Summit for completing the EDGE Development program. This Strategic Planning and Implementation Initiative offers targeted training regarding best practices for senior staff and elected officials.

With the objective of stimulating purposeful development through insightful training, education, and strategic planning, Edge’s prerequisite to the strategic planning process involved a series of educational modules focused on 21st-century economic and community development best practices, thereby optimizing collaboration between public agencies and community stakeholders.

Day 1 | Presentations

Paul D. Radford | City Manager of Sugar Hill.You have to have a plan, you have to commit to that plan, to that vision. I am a big believer in community initiated development which means why wait for the private sector to tell you what they are going to do with the property they buy. Should we wait for developers to come or should we invest in our own future plan? You just save up to build what you want. Buy it yourself. We’ve been patient, we’ve been selective and we’ve made mistakes! Failure is inevitable you just have to learn from those failures. Sometimes good timing and a little of luck can help you get to where we are. We like to say our transformation is swift and very sweet.”
Sweet & Swift – Sugar Hill’s 10-Year Transformation

Rahim Charania | Founder & Managing Partner of Woodvale.I think Georgia is the best state for business, period, full stop, nothing compares. The film industry is a people-intensive business. For every character you see on screen between 150 – 275 people are in the back. What makes Georgia so great is that we have a well of great talent that we can put to work. Georgia started off as a manufacturing facility for content. It wasn’t written here, produced here, funded here, distributed here, it wasn’t really created here. That is no longer the case. Now talent lives here, writers live here. The stories of the south are starting to come through in the content that we all watch in our shows.
The Impact Of Film Studios On A Community

Day 2 | Industrial Development Session

Michelle Shaw | Director, Existing Industry & Regional Recruitment for GDEcD. “If you don’t have a shared vision, you don’t have buy-in from all the primary stakeholders locally in the community. You have to have a defined strategy to compete in today’s environment. What good is it if you have the greatest industrial park, the greatest existing building in the world, if nobody knows it’s there? It’s important to tell your story. Tell your story internally within your community. Your story of success – what you’ve done to win projects, past experiences, the ripple effect and how that has paid off for the community, so they understand the results of the actions you are taking. Enlist buy-in from the community before you can build broader support outside the community. Promote those wins through press releases, social media etc, getting your community more attention and it helps the state know what you are doing locally.”  
The Local Team – What Can You Do To Attract and Retain New Development?

Ralph Forbes, PE | VP, Economic Development & Regional Director for Thomas & Hutton. “The decisions you make today last a lifetime and the results are passed down through future generations. Every decision you make affects a community’s livelihood. It takes a commitment in dollars to spend and invest to get your site competitive. The decision communities make that are not cheap in order to make their site competitive is very important to play and compete in this game not only against 159 counties in Georgia but probably over 200 counties in the Southeast. Have a vision and a plan, identify land, do your due diligence, grad certification, selling your community with graphics, be proactive with RFIs and site visits. Separate yourself from your competition. Do not hold anything back when you get the chance to sell your community, you have about an hour or two in that visit to sell yourself and make an impression on the prospect.”
How Competitive Is Your Site?

Kelley Bush | Director, Existing Industry & Workforce Development LaGrange Development Authority. “When we first started we were like most Authorities, our primary focus was capital investment and jobs. Today, 90% of what we do is workforce development. We take a holistic approach to workforce development and consider it an ecosystem of housing, transportation, childcare, career education and training but most importantly we consider equitable access to all of these a priority. We realize that workforce development isn’t just about providing a pipeline for our industry, but that our efforts in workforce development actually impact families, our community, region and our state. It is important to understand that you don’t have unlimited capacity so we have to prioritizing our existing industry base and make sure we are taking care of what we already have. Being able to have transparent and authentic conversations about our challenges and being upfront about what we are doing to confront those challenges hence building trust.” 
Innovative Workforce Solutions

Day 2 | Retail & Community Development Session

Daniel Martin | Manager, Retail-Commercial Development for ECG.Gen Z is a generation of contrasts. While they’re the first group in history to grow up entirely with digital and mobile technology at their fingertips, they’re continuing to play a vital role in the revival of physical stores – highlighting the draw of gathering, shopping, and dining with friends in person. 48% of them most frequently shop at Discount/off price retailers such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Kohl’s, Walmart, Target, etc. Another merger to take note of is Kroger and Alberstons. The $24.6 Billion deal will combine two of the largest supermarket operators in the U.S. creating a grocery chain with nearly 5,000 locations.
What’s New In The Retail World

Jeremy Emmett | Owner & Chief Operating Officer for Red Hills Hospitality Management. “There’s been an uptick in regional travel brought on by COVID-19, shifting a lot of people thoughts about traveling locally or regionally. It brought a lot of attention to boutique stores in downtowns and help start a revitalization of those areas. It also let people have a desire for work life balance and shift business travel but bringing your family, as well as shifting consumer dining and shopping preferences. There was an economic shift from products to experiences where people were tired of buying, people wanted to go do and see things. For smaller towns, there is a demand for business travel, a desire for leisure travel, and a market for event meetings, weddings, reunions, etc. By adding a hotel to your downtown, one way to make sure it’s successful is to take a franchise brand and leverage its marketing power and business travel from an existing name brand, and you potentially become the best hotel for leisure events in town.”
Retail Trends & Hospitality

Connie Tabor | Community Development Director for The City of Toccoa.Unlocking the heartbeat of a city requires the symphony of diverse downtown elements—tourism, movies, events, shopping, restaurants, and breweries harmonizing to create a true experiential center. A thriving downtown isn’t just a place; it’s a mosaic of opportunities that resonate with a multitude of people and groups. Downtown beautification, a vital journey woven with facade grants, greenscapes, and streetscapes, is the compass guiding us toward a cleaner, safer, and more walkable urban tapestry. In this pursuit, every detail matters—accessibility, beauty, wayfinding, trees, banners, entrance signs, and landscape furniture—the threads that weave the vibrant fabric of a downtown story, inviting and directing visitors to explore the heart of the city.”
Three R’s in Economic Development: Revitalization. Relationships. Resilience

Kimberly N. Carter, EDFP | Division Director, Community Finance Division for Georgia DCA. “The Department of Community Affairs helps build strong, vibrant communities. Some of our focus areas: Downtown Development, focusing on creating and retaining jobs in downtowns and improving the quality of life of our citizens; Workforce Development, making sure we can increase or enhance the skills or provide apprenticeships that benefit both employers and their employees to retain a quality workforce; Infrastructure, providing resources to enhance not only traditional infrastructure like water and wastewater, but also housing infrastructure to help provide ample opportunities for our workforce; and tourism, aiding communities throughout the state in promoting their unique qualities and opportunities.”
Grant Funding To Meet Community Development Needs 

Day 3 | Presentations

J. Mike Mullis | President & CEO of J.M. Mullis, Inc.
Denise E. Mullis | SVP & Partner of J.M. Mullis, Inc.

“The availability of property is key, you as community leaders, utilities, industrial development authority members take the time to create industrial sites. When a project lands, other projects usually follow due to the recognition. Data is important; however, you don’t have to give us exact numbers of things, give color to the data, we are really looking for the local knowledge to help build the right workforce for the project. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story; we look at the story behind the numbers. When it comes to commute times, companies don’t want more than thirty minutes now. What matters to the leadership of the communities is how you close the deal. It’s how you will get those investments, how you will get those jobs, not that we had 10 prospects last week.” 
Today’s 21st Century Site Selection Model

Melissa Dark | President & CEO for Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce. The FLEX (Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneur X-Perience) program is a student entrepreneurial program that was started in Fitzgerald but is now going across the state in equipping communities to help students start businesses in high school. It has had a transformational effect not only on the students but also the communities themselves. The FLEX program is a workforce development that uses entrepreneurship as the vehicle to get them there. Students who start their own businesses learn workforce skills in a way that they are very invested in, their own time and money and they learn the value of that effectively and quickly.”  
Georgia FLEX

We wish to express our deepest appreciation and heartfelt thanks to our sponsors. Your generous contributions enable us to host a top-tier Summit of exceptional quality year after year.

For our past events, explore more here.