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Getting down to business
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I can’t believe I only have one more class day with Leadership Newton County. These past few months have really flown by, but every class day I get to slow down a bit and study a facet of our community that few can devote five minutes to, let alone an eight-hour day.

Last Thursday our class again embarked on a journey to Atlanta. It was a dreary day, but spirits were high. We began our economic development class day at Georgia Power’s Georgia Resource Center. I’ll be honest — I didn’t even know this place existed.

The GRC works with various state agencies such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to attract industry and businesses to the state. We role-played as if we were an industry that potentially wanted to locate in Georgia in order to witness how the GRC’s state-of the-art technology can locate existing buildings and tracts of land that would suit the interested company. The GRC representatives, of course, tailored the search so that the industry’s query would be narrowed to Stanton Springs Industrial Park.

Once a search is narrowed, the GRC puts the company in contact with local governments and chambers of commerce — people like my LNC classmate Shannon Davis, who works in economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

I was amazed at the amount and accuracy of information this database stores. How industries determined where they wanted to locate before the Internet and technology allowed them to have this information at the click of a mouse — I don’t know. GRC technology specialists could even show a potential industry what a certain square footage building would look like on a particular plot of land. I was mesmerized.

We then went up a few floors in the Georgia Power building and spoke with a Snapping Shoals EMC retail development representative about informational resources that company offers to retain businesses who want to locate or expand in Georgia. We discussed demographic statistics that companies look for when relocating or expanding. I learned that the average age in the North Georgia Mountains is much older than Newton’s average age of 34.5 and that it’s much younger in counties with military bases. I never considered these factors as something a business would consider when looking to relocate or expand.

The most interesting portion of the Snapping Shoals presentation was the discussion of current retail trends on the rise. Anybody know what a slow beverage is? I didn’t either until this discussion. Think about fast beverages as Red Bulls or Monster Energy Drinks. Some companies are researching how to market slow beverages — no not beer or wine — but drinks containing melatonin and other relaxing agents for a commuter’s drive home instead of their drive to work.

After lunch provided by Snapping Shoals, we hopped back on our yellow school bus and headed home to C.R. Bard. For more than 40 years in Covington, Bard has been manufacturing and formulating modern medical technology that improves a patient’s quality of life. The company changed medicine with the perfection of the Foley Catheter and has created numerous other products such as chemotherapy ports to hernia patches.

Employees introduced us to some of Bard’s more popular products. I didn’t even know there was a market for most of them — no a trampoline is not just for jumping, sometimes it’s for containing. While I really hope that none of Bard’s products are ever needed for my body, I’m glad they exist and are made in my home town.

Our class was then graciously given a tour of Covington’s sterilization facility. It’s massive and operational 24/7, except for maybe a few days at the end of the year. Our tour guide told us the machines like to run.

Industries like C.R. Bard are not only large employers for our community, but also they are community partners in education and fundraising efforts for area non-profits. My hope is that future generations of LNC classes will have dozens more local industries to choose from to visit on economic development day.

My next LNC class day involves public safety. For our homework assignments we have to go on a ride along with the police, fire or sheriff department. I chose Covington Fire because they are going to put me through hell — literally. My next column will likely be the most interesting of them all, so stay tuned to see how I did on the 100-foot ladder and inside the burn house.


Jennifer T. Long is editor of The Covington News and a member of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce’s 2009-10 class of Leadership Newton County.