Sears to retire from economic development

CONYERS -- Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, has announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

Sears, who has served as director for five and a half years, said this will be his third retirement in 11 years -- he first retired as Southeast regional manager for John Deere in 2001 at the age of 57 and then ran successfully for a post on the Rockdale Board of Commissioners. He decided not to seek re-election in 2006, marking his second retirement, but was asked to take on the economic development role in 2007.

"That was supposed to be kind of a short-term bridge," said Sears, "and that bridge lasted five and a half years. I don't know where that time went because it dawned on me that on Dec. 15 I was going to be 68 years old."

The role of the Economic Development Council has been to retain and expand existing industry in the community and recruit new industry, said Sears. He counted gaining Georgia Work Ready certification for the county as a major accomplishment in terms of helping existing industries grow.

"When we became a certified Georgia Work Ready Community, that helped a number of those companies do a better job of hiring, promoting and retaining workers, and that benefits the bottom line," he said.

The recent retention of Hillphoenix in Rockdale County was another accomplishment, Sears said, noting that the company provides 800 jobs and is still growing.

"That would be a crowning jewel in my time with the community," he said.

The location of a Corrugated Supplies Company plant in Conyers in 2011 was an example of helping to build the local manufacturing base, said Sears. Corrugated Supplies moved into former Solo Cup distribution space and created 50 new jobs.

"When you are turning distribution space into manufacturing space, you have a much higher investment into machinery, and you have the manufacturing wage scale, which is generally the top tier of wages," he said.

Even though Sears is looking forward to retirement, he admitted it's difficult to let go of projects that are in the works. Two that are close to coming to fruition are the sale of the former John Deere facility on Dogwood Drive and development of 92 acres just west of the John Deere building.

Still, Sears said he's determined to make this retirement stick.

"If you don't draw the line, this thing is like a chain, if you don't draw the line somewhere there is always something coming."

As for his successor, Sears offered this advice.

"To be successful in this job, you have to establish close working relationships with the Chamber of Commerce ... and build great relationships with the city and the county, not only the mayor and the chairman, but with the council and the Board of Commissioners and the department heads that work with them. Meet as many people as you can."

As of the new year, Sears won't be working to recruit or retain industry, but he has a lot plans to stay busy. Though he and his wife traveled quite a bit overseas with John Deere, he said they didn't see as much of their own country. Now they'd like to visit sites like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

"We haven't learned about the United States like we would like to," he said.

He also said he'd like to spend more time with his four grandchildren and revisit hunting and fishing, hobbies he hasn't had time to pursue in the past 10 years.

"I keep having friends who want me to play golf," Sears added. "I can't say I'll do that, but I'm thinking about that."