How to land the big ones takes center stage at development forum —

Economic development is an easy thing to desire, but landing a business prospect requires a true commitment to planning, preparation, determination and follow through. That was the message at the “Economic Development 3.0” forum held Sept. 25 in Fayetteville and sponsored by the Fayette County Development Authority (FCDA) and Coweta-Fayette EMC (CFEMC).

Above, a cross-section of leaders from around Fayette County attended the Fayette County Development Authority Economic Development 3.0 forum held Sept. 25 in Fayetteville. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Attended by nearly 50 community and local government leaders, the forum topics were designed to focus on where Fayette County stands in the economic development universe and how the county can position itself for future success.

“This meeting is critically important,” said FCDA Chairman Darryl Hicks, emphasizing that Fayette is competing locally, nationally and internationally to attract new business. “Everything we do affects our ability to attract.”

FCDA President Joan Young agreed, saying, “We want to be very intentional is how we develop and grow.”

Young noted the industries targeted by FCDA and throughout Fayette include film/new media, corporate headquarters, life sciences, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and information technology.

Two of the speakers at the forum were Rose Burden and Carter Wood, both with Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world, which also does consulting work.

Wood and Burden reviewed a range of topics, including state and local economic development, industry trends, trends in foreign direct investment, project drivers, incentive trends and best practices.

“It’s a global economy, and competition ‘is’ the world,” Burden emphasized.

Economic development creates sustainable, local jobs, increases the local tax base, aids in securing better public services and helps facilitate lower government borrowing, said Burden.

“You need all the stakeholders in place before the potential target arrives,” Burden stressed.

Wood agreed, saying, “It’s a team effort.”

When it comes to manufacturing, “Manufacturing 20 years ago is not necessarily the manufacturing we have today,” said Burden.

Wood noted that, in terms of industry trends, the U.S. continues to be attractive to foreign investors.

“The Southeast continues to be the most attractive location for new projects,” he said. “In 2017, the Southeast received 40 percent of the projects.”

Referencing what companies want, Wood said they want their concerns and needs addressed while looking for flexible and creative opportunities in the communities they select.

In terms of foreign direct investment, the majority of those projects are in manufacturing, said Wood and Burden, adding that there is a sharp, upward trend in Asian investment spending in recent years, and with the Southeast garnering a lion’s share.

Burden and Wood also addressed the critical area of project drivers, those things which must be successfully addressed if a community hopes to be on the winning side of site selection for a project.

Among the drivers were labor cost and availability, proximity to major markets, tax climate, access to transportation, land and construction costs, site infrastructure, utility costs and educational resources.

“It’s critical to have the site controlled. Otherwise the project may not locate here,” Burden said.

The Fayette group was also told that companies look at tax rates, tax structure, franchise taxes, cash grants and cash equivalents.

“Our clients are looking for savings,” said Burden, adding that the project has to be a win-win for everyone.

Central to the theme of the presentation was the reality that, “You have to have a plan in place. You have to know your prospect’s needs. You have to know your competition. You have to know your weaknesses. And you have to understand the project’s economic impact,” Burden stressed.

CFEMC Director of Community and Economic Development Greg Wright said his organization wants to be part of the economic development, and the future, of Fayette County.

“CFEMC is proud to partner with FCDA in promoting quality job growth in Fayette County. Whether helping new companies locate to the area, or helping existing companies grow and prosper in Fayette, the Development Authority works every day to make the community stronger. Our partnership with Georgia EMC means we have access to resources which allow the Development Authority to enhance its marketing efforts and reach a global audience. We know our community will continue to be a magnet for exceptional companies who bring quality jobs to Fayette County,” Wright said.