Development authority gets an update on strategic plan

January 25, 2017

This is an article that was originally published in the Douglas County Sentinel.

BY LIZ MARINO STAFF WRITER

The Development Authority of Douglas County met Friday with team members of Avalanche Consulting, who presented an update on the mid-point of a strategic plan begun in October aimed at increasing economic prosperity and quality of life for Douglas County.

Chris Pumphrey, executive director of the development authority said, “By having an action plan at the completion of the strategic planning process, we are better able to recruit and attract the types of businesses we want and can support in Douglas County. By aligning the various components of what makes a community thrive, we are able to have a more holistic approach to growing Douglas County.”

The development authority began a seven-month strategy planning process in October with Avalanche, an economic development consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.

The strategic plan will evaluate Douglas County’s competitive position and identify industries and assets for future development efforts. A brand identity profile and tactical marketing recommendations will also be included. The process will result in a detailed action plan that aligns community development, economic development, and marketing activities to catalyze economic growth.

Amy Holloway, president of Avalanche, told the development authority board, “Twenty years ago, economic development was business attraction. Today, most economic development is not just about business attraction, but also retention. Modern economic development must be holistic, inclusive of every opportunity to make the community a more prosperous place for all residents and businesses.”

She said the analysis will focus on education, a workforce and infrastructure.

Avalanche began the strategic planning process with in-depth data analysis as a result of input from residents and business owners in Douglas County, focus groups and interviews conducted by its team.

Holloway said her firm will target industries with the highest and best use of community and will include a branding and marketing plan.

John Rees, research director with the consultants, gave a presentation of data points and trends with Douglas County now and within the last five years.

“Douglas County was among the fastest growing counties in Georgia in the 2000s,” he said.

He said that between 2002 and 2009, the county issued 2,000 housing permits per year. This came to a halt in 2011, with only 54 housing permits issued. In 2015, 249 housing permits were issued.

Rees said that Douglas County’s employment reached its all-time high with five consecutive years of positive growth. However, research found that 85 percent of residents do not work in Douglas County.

“There are a lot more white collar jobs with higher wages outside of Douglas County,” Rees said. He spoke to the board about “what makes a good target?” and “does it meet the county’s needs?”

Rees talked in terms of “target clusters” in Douglas County, or groups of specific industries, such as manufacturing. Holloway explained that a “cluster is a rollup of industries with similar skill sets,” which leads to determining how to help residents find quality jobs here and what sort of workforce development is needed.

The consultants proposed several target clusters to meet Douglas County’s needs, including advanced manufacturing, professional technology services and media and entertainment.

With a county of only 220 square miles, development authority board member Terry Baggett asked, “Do we have space to put those target clusters?”

Rees said, “The county will have to be more intentional. Driving around, it appears that some things have been placed willy-nilly.”

A final steering committee meeting over the strategic plan will be held in March or April, said Holloway, at which time the strategic plan should be revealed.

“I think it will be a very energizing plan in the community,” she said.