Head industrial recruiter Roger Harrison is leaving Newton County, but the chamber has already hired a replacement in Courtney Bernardi, the top recruiter in Jackson County.
Chamber President Hunter Hall said he didn’t expect to see any drop off in Newton County’s recruitment efforts as Jackson County was frequently a top competitor for projects in Georgia, landing several during Bernardi’s tenure.
Harrison is leaving to pursue another opportunity and be closer to his significant other, while Bernardi will get to work in a community significantly larger and with more resources than the one she’s leaving. Jackson County had a 2010 population of 60,485, compared to Newton’s 99,958.
“I accepted the job in Newton County because Newton County is a community in which success is happening. A community with a history of being progressive in creating an environment of success for business, tourism and families,” Bernardi said by email Friday afternoon.
The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has also hired James Johnson Jr. to head up its workforce development efforts and work with existing industry. Johnson, who has worked at Georgia Piedmont Technical College for several years, will replace Shannon Davis, who recently left. Bernardi and Johnson will form a two-person recruitment team.
Bernardi will make $85,000 and Johnson will make $55,000 annually. The Office of Economic Development is the county and city of Covington’s recruiting arm and operates as a separate division of a chamber. The annual budget is $271,000, split between the city ($150,000) and county ($121,000).
During her last three years in Jackson County, Bernardi oversaw seven large relocations to and expansions in the county, totaling over $650 million in investment and the creation of over 2,500 new jobs.
Bernardi will start Monday and she’ll work alongside Harrison for the next couple of weeks as she transitions into the role; Johnson will start April 22.
“Hunter and I have always had the agreement that I would let him know when I was ready to start looking for another job, so that we wouldn’t lose the momentum we’ve fought so hard to gain in the community,” Harrison said in a press release. “There was a very short list of economic development professionals I trusted enough to recommend to Hunter for taking over the reins of our highly successful recruitment and retention program, and Courtney was at the top of that list.
“I’ve known her for years, and couldn’t be more comfortable knowing I’m passing on the program to a consummate professional gifted with endless energy and enthusiasm for the profession.”
Hall said Harrison was hired in late 2010 to build the Office of Economic Development and put Newton County back on the map as a hotspot for economic development.
“He has certainly done that and much more. It has been a pleasure to work with Roger and all of us in this community will be indebted to his labor for years to come,” Hall said in the release.
Harrison had a direct hand in recruiting four new industries, Vestar Technologies, Pasco Sprinkler, Stamptech Metals and Amesbury Extruded Plastics, and also helped with three expansions of existing industries, SKC, Bridgestone Golf and Nisshinbo Automotive. Harrison traveled to China, Japan and South Korea on a trip in 2011 that he said Friday was the first international trade mission undertaken by a Newton County official.