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Chamber promotes two staffers

COVINGTON -- Roger Harrison has been promoted to senior vice president of economic development by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Harrison came on board in March as vice president of economic development. His duties will now increase to include international recruitment of industry and maintenance with international companies already in Newton, according to a press release from the Chamber.

Harrison will travel to Asia in October to visit corporate leaders with SKC, Bridgestone and Nisshinbo, industries already located in Newton. He will follow that up with a trip in early 2012 to Germany alongside the state's economic development professional to meet with representatives with Michelin/Tread Technologies, also an existing local industry, at the Tire Technology Show.

"These large international corporations are heavily invested in our community. It is important for their leaders to know we are grateful for their business, and that when they choose to expand, we would welcome those expansions in Covington/Newton County," Harrison said.

"The Covington-Newton Chamber, like many others around the state, is looking at organizing a foreign trip/trade mission for local businesses and leaders in 2012, and the China portion of this trip is the first step in the planning process," he added. "The trip is heavily subsidized by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, so while I am already in the region, we thought it best to visit the leaders at SKC, Nisshinbo and Bridgestone Golf."

The trade mission trip will include seven cities and three countries in 12 days. Harrison said he received a $1,000 scholarship as well from the Georgia Economic Developers Association, with the remainder of the trip to be funded through regular budgeted travel funds and assistance from the city of Covington's economic development fund.

Chamber President Hunter Hall said Harrison's initial duties were to become familiar with key players at the state and local levels.

"Internally there were two key indicators that we wanted to see before we made this move: Could he establish a network across the Southeast, both in personal relationships and in key economical development organizations and did those relationships translate into an increase in industrial projects looking to locate in Newton County. We can say with confidence he has done both," Hall said, adding that in the past six weeks, nine projects have come into the Office of Economic Development at the Chamber.

According to Harrison, "We have made the short list on three of these projects, and the companies are all at different stages of the process from negotiating lease terms, utility rates and engineering/design of the changes needed at the proposed buildings."

Harrison was recently named Membership Services Committee chair for the Georgia Economic Developers Association and Georgia chairman for the Blue Ridge Institute for non-profit professionals.

Harrison was tapped by the Chamber to lead their economic development efforts on behalf of Covington and Newton County after a year-long search. Harrison, whose annual salary, including benefits, is $107,000 will not receive a salary increase to go along with the promotion, Hall said.

Shannon Davis will remain with the Chamber as director of business retention and expansion.

In other Chamber news, Ron Carter has been promoted to assistant director of tourism alongside current director Clara Deemer. His duties will be expanded to include oversight and direction of the Regional Visitors Center and coordination of tourism marketing.

"With the continued success of visitors to Covington/Newton County, we believe we needed to make this move to help support and expand our tourism efforts," Deemer said.

In addition to continuing to capitalize on Newton's Hollywood connection as a popular filming site, efforts are under way to promote the town as a wedding destination, she added, as well as promoting it as a destination to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

Carter was hired in 2006 and has served in a variety of capacities, including receptionist, membership director and information specialist.