Special Photo: Senior Vice President of Economic Development Roger Harrison, third from left, is flanked by Bridgestone Sports executives during a recent trip to company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Pictured are Fukuoka-san, CEO; Umemoto-san, vice president; and Igarashi-san, general manager, along with Yumiko Nakazono, managing director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development's office in Japan.
COVINGTON -- At least 50 new jobs are coming to Newton County, through an expansion of Nisshinbo, an existing industry that manufactures brake pads, and more than 200 additional jobs could be available soon, said Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.
Harrison said there are three pending announcements that should be finalized within the next one to three weeks regarding businesses that are targeting Newton. All will open in existing facilities and will represent a total investment of $40 million, and hire a total of 220 people, he said. Pay scale will range between $15 and $20 per hour. The industries will remain unidentified by the Chamber until an official announcement is made.
The new industries are the result of relationships Harrison had established prior to arriving at the Chamber.
"This is what I was brought here to do," said Harrison, who has been on the job since March.
A representative with Nisshinbo could not be reached for comment regarding that industry's expansion.
Harrison recently returned from a 15-day trip to Asia, where he visited exciting industries Bridgestone Sports, FiberVisions China, Nisshinbo, SKC and its parent company, SK. All of those industries are on the top 10 employers list for Newton: Bridgestone employs 162; Nisshinbo 228; FiberVisions 250; and SKC more than 300.
The message he carried to all was, "If you want to expand we would love for you to expand in our community."
Harrison spent the first week of the trip in China with American Chamber of Commerce Executives, a national organization with the mission of supporting and educating Chamber professionals. He then ventured off on his own for eight days, visiting industries in Japan and Korea.
The plane ride to China cost just $250 as it was part of a deal through the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. The trip was also funded through $5,000 of City of Covington funds earmarked for economic development and was subsidized by the Georgia Economic Developers Association.
Harrison said executives were impressed that he traveled so far to meet with them.
"Take SKC -- think about how many times they've sent somebody here. This is the first time we've sent someone over there to thank them. If we don't treat them like new business prospects another community will," he said.
Harrison said he also was there to identify any needs or concerns of industry executives.
He said all the executives he spent time with were very complimentary of their local staff.
Next, Harrison will travel to Germany to be at a tire technology expo in February and then on to France to visit with Michelin, which operates a division, Tread Technologies, in Covington, and SGD Glass, which operates a perfume bottle manufacturing site in Covington.
Harrison said he'd like residents to know he's not sightseeing while on these trips, but working round the clock for Newton County. He noted that he had two days off out of the 15 he spent in Asia.
"This job is a sales job. I am selling Newton County. Any good salesman will tell you that you sell when you have a good relationship ... We have to show them we appreciate them and value their business and give them a level of comfort to not only want to stay here but grow here, too," he said.
His efforts are being applauded by Gretchen Corbin, deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
"When communities ask for my advice as to how they can grow globally on the foreign direct investment side, my answer is always to call on your existing industry's international headquarters and ask them to grow in your community, as well as to ask those industries to connect your community with potential new leads within their countries that they may know. All of you in Newton County had the foresight to do (this) without asking and for that you are to be congratulated," she said in a prepared statement.