b'ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTSouth Georgia: Setting a Global TableA Hub for Food & Beverage ManufacturingFresh Baked: Martins Famous Pastry joined Valdosta, Lowndes Countys list of food processors in 2008.K eeping people fed across the globe is big business in Georgia. The production of food and fiber represents $13 billion annually, and is the states leading manufacturing sector in terms of employment and gross state product (GSP).With more than 42,000 farms scattered across 9.6 millionThe abundance of water is essential to many industries, says acres, since the beginning of FY2021 food production hasAndrea Schruijer, executive director of Valdosta-Lowndes increased by 232% in job creation from the previous year.County Development Authority (VLCDA) and chair of Locate South Georgia, a 19-county collaborative focused on marketing With its rich agriculture base and abundance of naturalthe region as globally competitive for business and industry resources, exceptional logistical infrastructure, and highlygrowth. Food processors need the availability of affordable skilled and affordable workforce, South Georgia is creating thefreshwater, and this region can provide huge volumes.perfect spot for food and beverage industries to thrive.Dyke says that having the Florida Aquifer is a leading reason Being located in an agricultural hub provides access toAlbany has experience success as a beverage production resources and raw product, ultimately cutting down on timelocation. and cost for food and beverage industries, says Jana Dyke, CEO and president of the Albany-Dougherty EconomicSchruijer adds that along with a water surplus, the region Development Commission (ADEDC)has an exceptional logistics infrastructure that allows food processors to move products quickly and efficiently.When it comes to natural resources, South Georgias geographical location places many of its communities on topTo maintain a competitive advantage, food processors need of the Florida Aquifer, one of the most productive aquifersefficient transportation connections to receive raw materials globally.and access to serve global markets, Schruijer says. 18 SG MAGAZINE| WINTER 2022 BUSINESS + CULTURE19'