This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Charged with a mission to provide and promote networking and professional development opportunities and to shape economic development public policy, the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) serves more than 700 members. Our organization is where people come together to learn and improve their skills to do their jobs better. There are project managers from a number of statewide development firms, such as Georgia Department of Economic Development, which is the state agency responsible for marketing for new and expanded business, small business development, international trade, film, gaming, digital entertainment, workforce development, the arts and more. Other members are with utility companies, such as Georgia Power, Georgia EMC and Electric Cities of Georgia. These organizations have community and economic development functions that range from retail development and attraction to manufacturing and public/private partnerships. Other members of GEDA include the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which coordinates the jobs tax credit program, as well as the Main Street and Downtown Development efforts, among others.
While these more “traditional” members continue to thrive in our association, there is a select group of “non-traditional” members in GEDA that are learning new ways to improve their communities through these valuable connections. Some of these members represent cities in their efforts to create jobs, attract investment opportunities and improve the overall quality of life.
I’m proud to share that some of the recent GEDA programs have focused on placemaking and film development. These programs have highlighted the ways that cities can benefit from and partner with GEDA. In building these new programs and seeing the benefits of the GEDA network, we’ve seen cities take their concerns in public safety, infrastructure and broadband and make developers from across the state aware of their needs and opportunities for new investments. Some example investments include an available buildings inventory, camera-ready photos and sites, or a small manufacturing operation could take advantage of tax breaks that are available to communities.
Job creation can also be a benefit to cities, and can be fulfilled through non-traditional methods, such as a data-center that might occupy a vacant building downtown. The same types of skills and development expertise used to shape these programs can also be used to attract placemaking and film jobs and investments. These tax credits can be enhanced if the jobs are in an enterprise zone or a lesser-developed census tract. Communities can attract jobs that will fill voids in the cities and help to improve the quality of life for everyone.
These connections and developments can also help a city meet its downtown placemaking goals and attract both millennials and baby boomers that are looking for a place to live, work, play and pray.
Taking the Next Steps
Now that we see how GEDA can help with these connections, where do we go from here? One thing that I would say is to have someone in your city focused on job creation. That job will require a lot of other responsibilities to make a community desirable for investments to occur—whether it be from existing businesses or new.
You should also attend some GEDA meetings and see for yourself the benefits of networking and professional development. We hold monthly membership meetings, as well as an annual meeting and a spring workshop, offering members an array of networking and professional development opportunities. You don’t have to be a member to attend. Once you experience the tremendous resources that are available, through both people and organizations, you may wish to become a member of GEDA. GEDA also offers programs that allow you to take materials home to help you better perform in the workplace, which can be found at www.GEDA.org.
In addition, we annually recognize excellence in economic development through five awards: Rip Wiley Award for Professional Excellence; Governor Zell Miller Public Policy Leadership Award; Volunteer of the Year Award; Honorary Life Member; and Deal of the Year.
Since our establishment in 1963, we have grown to become the leading professional association dedicated to enhancing Georgia’s economic vitality through encouraging cooperation, exchange of information, and upgrading of professional skills, and we’d love to continue in our mission with you and your fellow city officials. Even if you don’t become a GEDA member, get to know some of the people who are. There are benefits to meeting new people, learning new ways to do things and becoming a problem solver to make your community a better place to live, work and play.
Please feel free to contact me at KShea@Georgia. org and visit www.GEDA.org