Chamber makes new hires Harrison leaving economic development role

Crystal Tatum

Staff Reporter


Covington -- The Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce has announced the hiring of its new vice president of Economic Development, Courtney Bernardi, and new director of Existing Industry and Workforce Development, James Johnson.

Bernardi will replace Roger Harrison, who said he is pursuing another job opportunity to be closer to his partner.

The Covington/Newton County Office of Economic Development has seen significant success in the past several years with recruiting new industry as well as assisting existing industries expansions under the leadership of Harrison, stated a press release issued by the Chamber.

"Roger was hired in 2010 to build an entirely new Office of Economic Development and put Newton County back on the map in Georgia and the United States. He has certainly done that and much more. It has been a pleasure to work with Roger and all of us in this community will be indebted to his labor for years to come," said Chamber President Hunter Hall.

Since 2011 there have been 1,990 jobs and $1.245 billion in capital investment announced in the community. Among the companies locating and/or expanding in Newton County have been Baxter Healthcare, Vestar Technologies, Pasco Sprinkler, Stamptech Metals, Amesbury Extruded Plastics, SKC, Bridgestone Golf, and Nisshinbo Automotive. There are currently more than a dozen active projects still in the recruitment phase for Covington/Newton County.

"Hunter and I have always had the agreement that I would let him know when I was ready to start looking for another job, so that we wouldn't lose the momentum we've fought so hard to gain in the community. There was a very short list of economic development professionals I trusted enough to recommend to Hunter for taking over the reins of our highly successful recruitment and retention program, and Courtney was at the top of that list. I've known her for years, and couldn't be more comfortable knowing I'm passing on the program to a consummate professional gifted with endless energy and enthusiasm for the profession," said Harrison.

Bernardi is director of economic development in Jackson County, where she has facilitated the recruitment of nine companies and the expansion of numerous company footprints, resulting in more than $700 million in capital investment and more than 2,500 jobs created, according to her resume.

"We are very familiar with Courtney and Jackson County because we often compete with her on Economic Development projects and have actually lost one to her recently. When we started looking for this position, we knew exactly where we wanted to start. We are extremely honored that Courtney will be joining our team," said Hall. Bernardi's first day on the job was Monday.

James Johnson, director of admissions at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, will be joining the Office of Economic Development on April 22. He is replacing Shannon Davis, who recently resigned.

"James brings to this office immediate impact in the area of workforce development. His knowledge of the technical college system as well as the role he already plays in our K-12 programs will be a tremendous asset to our existing industry and will assist in our ability to recruit new industry as well. We are anxious to have James bring his years of experience, relationships, and leadership to this office," said Hall.

Bernardi's salary is $85,000 annually and Johnson's is $55,000.

"Roger Harrison and Shannon Davis have been tremendous assets to Newton County -- Roger with his recruiting efforts and Shannon establishing us as the statewide leader in workforce development. We are confident that Courtney and James will not only build on our recent successes -- but multiply them," he added.