Macon-Bibb County economic development study to include community input

lmorris@macon.comApril 29, 2013 

A new community and economic development planning project is expected to build a business plan for Macon-Bibb County.

The project, led by Atlanta-based Market Street Services -- a national community and economic development consulting firm -- was launched Monday at the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and several community partners retained Market Street Services to help develop a vision of where Macon-Bibb County wants to be in the coming years and set a plan to reach those goals.

While one of the goals is to make sure economic development leaders are recruiting the right businesses, “it’s so much more,” said Robbo Hatcher, current chairman of the Macon Economic Development Commission and one of three chairmen of the steering committee for the project. Other committee leaders are Kathryn Dennis, president of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, and Cliffard Whitby, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority.

“Economic development is everything from growing your existing industry to attracting new industry, to creating a ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship, to creating a sense of place that people want to live, work and play in,” Hatcher said.

Economic development involves people who train the workforce and work in education, real estate, the arts and the medical field. It also includes traditional economic developers who are trying to recruit companies, he said.

“When you think about the economy, it’s about place and people,” Hatcher said.

Whitby said in a statement that the project “will demonstrate that Macon-Bibb County is speaking with one voice. ... The strategic plan that we develop will be ready for implementation right as our governments are consolidating. The timing cannot be lost on anyone. We will be coming together in so many ways like we never have before.”

The steering committee will get input from several community organizations through focus groups, interviews and surveys. That process began Monday with a meeting of a 40-member steering committee that is “a very diverse group,” including people from nonprofits, large and small employers, and the government, Hatcher said.

“That group will be shepherding the process,” he said.

The process also includes a survey open to all Macon-Bibb residents and businesses that can be accessed at The survey will close May 17.

This latest effort will update and improve on a study initiated by Georgia Power in 2001. Georgia Power hired Fantus Corporate Real Estate Solutions -- a worldwide site-location and consulting group -- to perform an executive assessment of the area.

One of the findings from that report was that economic development efforts should focus on attracting three targeted industries: high-end back office/call centers, regional warehouse/distribution and aerospace.

The report also highlighted the need for a single point of contact for local economic development efforts. Pat Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission, was selected to fill that role and continues to do so.

The Market Street Services project is set to wrap up by the end of the year.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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