Milledgeville and Baldwin County compete nationally and internationally for industry and job additions.
Development Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner understands the pressure. He ultimately works for the taxpayers, who might wonder what improvements occurred in Poyner’s first year at the helm.
“We’ve done a lot of good things. I think we are now positioned where I want to be. My job is to recruit businesses and expand businesses, and that hasn’t happened yet,” Poyner said. “I’m hard on myself. I want to succeed and be the best. That’s one area where I’m not satisfied with what we’ve done.”
County Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said the development authority director continues making vital connections for Baldwin County, while communicating with elected officials.
“He’s kept us up to speed, so we can know how the county is investing its money,” Hall said.
Measurable victories exist with strong existing industries. Recent business retention surveys show that local businesses like the community and want to stay.
Poyner said up to five industry expansion announcements are coming. Appreciating the current big players has been a development authority focus.
“Perception is that town is dying. We have a core group of industries that are doing great. There isn’t a workforce problem. The plant managers love Milledgeville,” the authority head said.
Five state project managers visited Milledgeville Thursday and Friday. Along with a strong local group of city and county officials, representatives from Oconee Regional Medical Center, the development authority board and all three colleges offer a diverse recruiting support team.
Community diversity differentiates this area from others courting the same industry.
“One of the things we’ve been told is that out of most communities we are the most diversified. The fact we have different people from different backgrounds separates us from the competition,” Poyner said.
Hall said the county will work with Poyner to make things happen. Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley added that whenever the development authority needs the city the door is open.
Just getting project managers to town to view commercial property and the work at the 44-acre industrial park tract and Spec Building is an accomplishment, according to Hall.
The authority continues spending allotted Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes funds for infrastructure improvements and acquisition of property developing pad ready sites. These industry folks want to see a flat piece of land when they arrive.
“We have to keep up with the game. I’m doing everything I can within my powers to keep us on the radar and up front,” Poyner said. “When we get people here, it’s difficult for them not to want to stay here. Getting them here is the tough part. I wish it was overnight, but these things take time.”
Bentley said although the public doesn’t see desirable big economic results, he likes Poyner’s work ethic so far.
Economic developers stay busy behind the scenes recruiting, according to the mayor.
“The average person on the street does not see the work that economic development folks do, because you aren’t cutting ribbons on industries and big businesses,” Bentley said. “The public should know that the development authority, the board and Matt work hard everyday.”
New signage and a more aesthetically pleasing appearance will change the industrial park off Highway 22 to a place people where people want to work.
Like the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber, the development authority used Goebel Media for website improvements. Poyner said the site gets up to 1,000 hits daily.
The community includes a gigantic amount of unused state property development bodies could market, but can’t because the state’s asking price floats above a reasonable number. Poyner said Georgia Power and Tri-County EMC are working to find state property tracts that are industrial ready, which could assist movement at the state level to work with Baldwin County.
After one year, the DA executive director is “blown away” by city, county and board support.
Poyner sounded confident the public will see measurable activity soon.
“The first project we land will start the ball rolling,” he said.
Hall defined Poyner’s aggressive approach as necessary.
In the coming year, the development authority’s face will continue building marketable inventory to attract the major economic home run. Poyner is invested for the long haul.
“There is no 40-hour work week. My hands are going all different ways. It’s exhausting at times, but I’m doing it because I love this community and want to see it grow. I want to be able to say we made it happen,” he said.