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Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 11:08am

Rural Areas Get Economic Development Focus

State economic officials got together Thursday to reassess their goals in driving more business to Georgia. And those recent efforts include a focus on rural parts of the state.

More often than not, news of fresh investment and jobs goes to metropolitan areas of the state, like Columbus, Atlanta and Augusta. The good news has been harder to find lately in southwest, south, or northwest Georgia.

But state Department of Economic Development commissioner Heidi Green says inroads are being made. That’s despite the fact that rural regions are still struggling with the weak manufacturing sector:

“...And that tends to be where you see opportunities in rural Georgia. So that’s a little bit slow...our distribution centers are a little bit slow. But where we see opportunity in that energy sector, it is substantial opportunity.”

Green says in particular, biomass energy investment is being courted. Already, construction is underway on a wood pellet plant in southeast Georgia’s Waycross.

Green says across the board, more than 230 companies have brought either new, or expanded operations to the state. That includes automated teller machine giant NCR locating here, as well as investment in west Georgia tied to the KIA plant.

Green says NCR’s manufacturing plant in Columbus highlights a growing trend for companies--called “back-shoring”:

“And that is U.S. companies that had taken operations either call centers or manufacturing, off-seas, and brought them back.”

Also back Green says, more than 1,000 chicken processing jobs in Coffee County.

She points out that more than 57% of the department's economic development projects over the last fiscal year have been in rural areas of Georgia.