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Gutknecht: Locals blessed to have Hall, Short
Serra P. Hall, left, and Shane Short, right, celebrate the announcement of Facebook with U.S. Rep. Jody Hice on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at the state Capitol in Atlanta.

I would personally like to say that the residents of Newton and Walton Counties are lucky to have Serra P. Hall and Shane Short working for them.

The economic development office of any county is important. It works to drive business and industry to the community. The economic development offices of Newton and Walton are jam-packed with talented people who are working to bring the best companies for the area to the area.

Earlier this week, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that the social media powerhouse we all know and love, Facebook, would be building a multi-billion dollar data center in our own backyard. That would not have been possible without the efforts of Serra and Shane.

I had the opportunity to sit down with the two Thursday afternoon, after the dust had settled from Deal’s announcement at the Capitol Wednesday, and talk to them about the process. This year-long process of courting a Fortune 100 company should not be taken lightly.

The amount of effort these two put in to make sure that Newton County was not only the perfect fit for Facebook but that Facebook was the perfect fit for Newton County is unbelievable.

Serra and Shane could not do it alone, however. The corporation of the local governing bodies is vital to making these deals come to fruition. It is amazing to see local groups working together even when the benefits aren’t as obvious for certain participants.

We are in a new era locally. Gone are the days where neighboring governments battle against each other. The teamwork that can be seen in the Joint Development Authority of Walton, Newton, Jasper and Morgan Counties should be a model for other governing bodies around the state.

This group was founded on a goal of specific development and, while it might have taken a longer time than some would have wanted, it is happening.

When I asked Serra and Shane what they were doing the day following the announcement, the answer was simple: They were continuing to work deals for our local communities. Look out, y’all, I don’t think Facebook is going to be the last of the exciting news we hear about this year.