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Community struts its stuff
Chamber of Commerce hosts Developerñs Day tour

COVINGTON - The best of Newton County was shown to those on the front lines of economic development Wednesday during a Developer's Day tour hosted by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber welcomed representatives from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light, and the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation.

Chamber President John Boothby said these organizations receive more than 90 percent of initial calls from companies looking at new locations.

"We want to help these individuals do their jobs better by showing them that Covington is a location that can support the higher quality projects," Boothby said. "We feel like we can help them do their jobs by showing them the superior quality of this community and helping them to understand that lower quality projects need to keep looking because there are communities that would embrace them, but not this one."

The group convened at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning Wednesday morning and were welcomed by local leaders including Board of Commissioners Chairman Aaron Varner, Covington City Manager Steve Horton, Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby and State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, who all touted the spirit of cooperation among local governments and organizations.

"This is a community that reaches out to people, that takes care of the least of us as well as the most of us. We think you'll find it's a good, refreshing place to bring prospects to," Boothby said in closing remarks.

To illustrate that point, the group embarked on a tour of the county, with stops at Oxford College, Georgia Perimeter College and the Porterdale Mill Lofts, and a windshield viewing of the Covington Municipal Airport, Ga. Highway 142 and Lochridge Industrial Park.

At a luncheon at Burge Plantation, they heard about Stanton Springs, the four-county industrial park in eastern Newton County, and then participated in a skeet shoot.

Annie Baxter, statewide project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said learning about communities throughout the state and making contact with local leaders is an important part of her job.

"It's good for us to get to know the community and understand what industries and properties are available," Baxter said.

Baxter and others on the tour said businesses and industries have a variety of criteria when conducting site selections.

"I need to learn as much as I can about the state and communities," said Mike Pennington, executive director of the Georgia Economic Developers Association. "The more we know about the state, the more we can sell the state, and the more we know about individual communities the more we can sell individual communities."

Following the tour, Pennington said he was impressed that development was not limited to Covington, but was also present in Oxford and Porterdale.

"It was impressive to see the good quality growth going on in these communities," he said.

Randy Cardoza, managing director of Atlanta Gas Light Resources, called the tour "eye-opening."

"You just have a unique community with a long history of total cooperation between the city and county governments," he said. "That's one of the reasons Covington has had the success it has had."

Boothby said the tour was a success.

"We've got a good community and it showed well today," he said.

Boothby said the Chamber is dealing with several economic development prospects, including a large scale distribution/office project that could locate in Stanton Springs and an aviation-related project.

He said the prospects are still seeking information and noted that the Chamber does not comment on specifics of such projects until a deal is final.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.