It's the Mix that Matters!

Posted on May 18th, 2011

It’s the Mix that Matters was the title of the Chamber’s 2011Economic Summit held Tuesday at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center. A room full of top leaders came together to discuss the economic health of Valdosta-Lowndes County at the event sponsored by Express Employment Professionals.

Dr. Cynthia R. Tori presented the VSU Center for Business and Economic Research
study, Lowndes County by the Numbers: How Do We Compare With Peer and Aspirant
Communities? and a panel of local economic development organizations discussed their
economic development strategies and solicited questions and ideas from participants.
Myrna Ballard, Chamber of Commerce President; Michael Jetter, Interim Executive
Director for the Valdosta-Lowndes Conference Center and Tourism Authority; Amanda
Peacock, Valdosta Main Street Manager; Allan Ricketts, Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial
Authority Project Manager; and Jane Shelton, Valdosta-Lowndes Airport Authority
Member were panelists. “The economic development organizations represented here
today can come together as a team and have more impact on our community,” said
Jetter.

Economic Summit participants raised substantive questions for the panel and shared
ideas for moving forward during the facilitated discussion portion of the Summit led by
VSU Center for Business and Economic Research Director, Scott Manley. Lowndes
County Planner, Jason Davenport posed the question, why does Valdosta-Lowndes
County lose businesses? Ballard replied, “Having a pro-business environment is the most
important part of the economic development process. The Chamber has partnered with
the local governments on our SORT initiative, and the local governments have been
extremely responsive. We’re on the right track.” Ricketts replied with an answer
regarding maintaining a competitive edge over other communities and playing to our
strengths.

A few main ideas brought to light during the facilitated discussion were the need for a
combined strategy and effort to market Valdosta-Lowndes County, the need for a
commitment and strategic effort to develop the healthcare industry in ValdostaLowndes
County and taking full advantage of Valdosta-Lowndes County infrastructure
as a tool for economic growth.

Chris Miller with Illuminomics ended the day with a keynote address over lunch. “Let’s
not get stuck on this first step,” said Miller as he encouraged the crowd to take action
on what they heard at the Summit, “Economic development is about increasing quality
of life and quality of place—it’s about making your community better. Valdosta-Lowndes
County should be doing better, needs to do better and can do better.”
Miller challenged the group to not let the Economic Summit be just another meeting
where everyone talks about what needs to be done and never does anything about the
issues. “Let us look back on today and say this was the day that Valdosta chose a
different path.”

To ensure that Valdosta-Lowndes County moves forward, each of the economic
development organizations will discuss how they can plug the ideas and suggestions into
each of their respective strategies and programs. As a follow up to the meeting, the
Chamber is also hosting an interactive workshop on Oct. 13 with Peter Kageyama,
creative community consultant and author of For the Love of Cities. For more information
about the Summit or workshop, contact ReKasa Deen at rdeen@valdostachamber.com.

A full report of Lowndes County by the Numbers: How Do We Compare With Peer and
Aspirant Communities? and details from the Economic Summit can be downloaded at
www.ValdostaChamber.com/EconomicSummit


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