“It is important to take care of what’s in your backyard. Losing a large industry is devastating to the local workforce. We want to make sure they stay and succeed.” –Stan Crance
Recruiting new businesses is a top priority in Georgia and a job that the state does very well. For the fifth consecutive year, Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in the nation to do business by Site Selection, a leading economic development trade magazine.
As the economic development playing field continues to become more competitive, local economic development teams are not only vying for highly sought after new industry but also working to retain and expand existing businesses.
In Valdosta and Lowndes County, existing industry expansion is the focus of the Business Retention Action Team (BRAT).
Established in 2015 by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority (VLCDA), BRAT members represent community and state organizations that are committed to serving and strengthening local industries.
“The main focus of BRAT is to keep businesses and jobs here in Lowndes County,” said Stan Crance, existing industry coordinator with VLCDA. “Through our BRAT membership, we work to connect the needs of existing industries with the right people.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 60 percent of the private sector net new jobs are from existing establishments.
“It is important to take care of what’s in your backyard,” Crance said. “Losing a large industry is devastating to the local workforce. We want to make sure they stay and succeed.”
Similar to recruiting a new business, Crance said there is often substantial competition in securing the expansion of an existing industry.
“If a national company is looking at expansion, they might have several locations where the expansion can take place,” said Crance, who previously worked for the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center at Valdosta State University. “Companies will have distribution centers and facilities in several locations, so sometimes we are competing with another community for that expansion and new jobs.”
BRAT team members assist businesses in solving various operational and development issues.
“If they need to expand their infrastructure or require tax incentives, we connect them to the right people,” Crance said. “The goal is to find solutions that help with retention and job growth in our community.”
For example, after a supply and logistics tour with existing industries, there was discussion regarding the lack of trained workers, especially in management positions, to fill current and future logistic jobs in the region.
Members of BRAT then worked with Valdosta State University to promote the minor in logistics and supply chain management. Valdosta State is now taking the next step to establish a major in supply chain management.
Sharing information, ideas, and recommendations is another function of BRAT.
A recent BRAT initiative included a tour of the Georgia Ports Authority for industry leaders representing distribution and logistics, food processing, and manufacturing sectors in the community.
The tour provided valuable information on the process of importing and exporting products globally.
To expand the workforce pipeline, BRAT also promotes partnerships with local schools through career education and job placement for high school and college graduates.
“When we talk to existing industries about expanding, often that includes new job training,” Crance said. “We then work with Wiregrass Tech and even in the high schools to see what type of training is taking place and if students are receiving the technical skills that our industries need now and in the future.”
BRAT members include representatives from:
Georgia Centers of Innovation
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Georgia Department of Labor
Georgia Institute of Technology Innovation Institute
Georgia Power Company
Georgia Quick Start
University of Georgia Small Business Development Center at Valdosta State University
Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce
Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority
Wiregrass Georgia Technical College