Chamber hires Economic Development VP

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has hired a vice president of economic development after a yearlong search.

Roger Harrison, a seventh-generation Georgian and a native of Monticello, will begin work March 7. Harrison is the former president and CEO of the Hendry County Economic Development Council in southern Florida. He was previously a public service faculty member at the University of Georgia's Archway Partnership, an economic development program designed to better rural communities.

Harrison's main focus will be on recruitment of new business and industry.

"Job growth as well as capital investment will be his number one priority," said Chamber Chairman Scott Willis. "I hope Roger is never in the office. We expect him in Atlanta, around the state and around the globe for that matter, waving our flag and telling the world that Newton County is open for business."

Prior to Harrison's entry into public service, he worked for The Coca-Cola Company, where he managed Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the outdoor entertainment industry.

Harrison serves on the Georgia 4-H Advisory Committee, the Southwest Florida Work force Development Board, and the Hendry County Regional Medical Center Foundation Board. He is vice chairman of Florida's Heartland Regional Economic Development Initiative and a past member of the Alumni Board of Directors for Presbyterian College. Harrison holds a bachelor of fine arts from Presbyterian College and a master of public administration from Georgia College and State University.

Chamber President Hunter Hall said the search committee was looking for "a younger person that has a history and a track record."

"The game of economic development has changed significantly in the last five years. Candidly, we interviewed candidates we thought were good fits, but they have not adjusted to the game change," he said.

"We have been very selective in our search process and Roger fits the profile of leader that we have been looking for -- almost to a T," he added. "He is professional, articulate, well networked in the state of Georgia and around the Southeast, has corporate experience and is resourceful. He will be a great asset to our community."

Shannon Davis, current director of economic development, will become the business retention and expansion director. She will focus on the existing manufacturing base and expansion opportunities.

Harrison's annual salary, including benefits, is $107,000. In late 2009, the City Council and Board of Commissioners agreed to increase allocations to the Chamber for economic development by a combined $60,000 for the remainder of fiscal year 2010 and by more than $130,000 for fiscal year 2011. The organization has not received any of those funds, but now expects to following the announcement of Harrison's hiring, said Hall.

The additional funds will pay for Harrison's salary, dues and memberships to various organizations focusing on economic development, and prospect development, including development of marketing materials, site maps and other data for corporate prospects.