It has been nearly four years since Matt Forshee moved to Fayette County to lead its economic development efforts. Forshee will continue to serve as CEO of the Development Authority until March 31 when he will become president of the Athens Economic Development Foundation.
Forshee came to Fayette County in the early summer of 2006 from Oconee County where he began work as a land planner and was later given responsibility for Oconee’s economic development efforts.
“Fayette County is a great community with great potential,” Forshee said. ”It’s been a great training ground for me. I came here green and I’ve learned so much about running an organization like this. We’ve had a great board and some great successes.”
Forshee cited the examples of NCR and Sany, which he hopes will break ground later this spring, as accounting for up to 1,200 jobs for Fayette County.
Forshee said Fayette County should continue to increase its efforts in recruiting companies that bring white collar jobs, adding that a large number of
Fayette’s residents travel to work outside the county in such positions.
Attracting while collar jobs is not necessarily easy since the northeast side of metro Atlanta has demographic numbers that are much larger than those contained here, he added.
“It’s been slow but steady, getting the white collar jobs through smaller niche companies,” said Forshee, explaining that some companies, including international companies, see the benefits of locating here once they gain familiarity with the area. “And we need to continue to focus on international companies. Being close to Hartsfield is a great asset.”
Forshee said the recession played a role in the potential location of a number of companies to Fayette and their decision to hold off due to the economic climate. Those companies had already determined that Fayette’s location in south metro was advantageous.
“Just before the recession we had a couple of them looking seriously and were within two months of finalizing (their plans),” he said. “They either decided to hold off and wait out the recession or open smaller offices.”
Commenting on Forshee’s departure to Athens, Fayette County Development Authority board member and Peachtree City Development Authority Chairman Mark Hollums said, “It’s a great opportunity for him and I’m going to miss him. Matt has been a big asset and he’ll leave some pretty big shoes to fill.”
Also weighing in on Forshee’s upcoming move to Athens, Development Authority board member and Fayetteville City Manager Joe Morton noted Forshee’s contribution to the board and to the city, explaining that Forshee had also served on the Main Street board.
“Matt has been outstanding to work with. He’s been very accessible and we’ve had a close working relationship with him,” Morton said. “I hate to see him go. Their gain is our loss.”
Forshee’s move to Athens will have him responsible for both job and industrial recruitment and growing the organization into one with a regional, multi-county impact.
“Actually it’s more of an increase in responsibility,” Forshee said, noting the Athens Economic Development Foundation’s desire to extend its impact beyond the confines of Athens-Clarke County and have its funding involve other sources beyond the county, the University of Georgia and the chamber of commerce. “They have been in talks with the surrounding counties to create a regional entity,” Forshee said. “Hopefully we can transition to a couple of counties in the next 12-18 months with a total number of up to six counties. And they want to turn (the foundation) into a public/private partnership when they go regional.”