Southwest Georgia Shines During 28th Annual Georgia Quail Hunt

K.K. Snyder

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Albany and Southwest Georgia welcomed a record number of guests this week to the 28th Annual Georgia Quail Hunt. Nearly 30 site location consultants as well as recruitment and expansion prospects arrived in Southwest Georgia this week to learn about doing business in Georgia while enjoying the traditional quail hunting experience. 

The hunt, sponsored in partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Allies, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Locate South Georgia, connects area leaders with consultants or company heads looking to move or expand their businesses to Georgia in order to learn first-hand about the state’s numerous benefits for doing business here.

Governor Nathan Deal was on hand to meet the guests Wednesday night and said he enjoys the opportunity to showcase this area of the state. “We’ve had great success with this program over the years, and we continue to have job growth in our state, which is a welcome thing,” says Deal, noting that 467,200 new private sector jobs have come to Georgia since he took office in January 2011.

He called the event “one of those foundational pieces,” necessary for showing prospects that Georgia has successfully grown job opportunities across the state. “This is a part of the state that we’d like to see more job growth in because you have lost job opportunities from plants and facilities that have closed over the last decade or so. We’re always looking for opportunities to help areas like this grow.”

Things were done a bit differently this year, says Fitzgerald native Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, adding there was a more direct focus on this region. 

“Traditionally, our focus has been on using this event as a sales tool for the whole state of Georgia. But because of the economy of Southwest Georgia and the importance of this area, we’re really putting more emphasis on Southwest Georgia and the opportunities down here.”

Clark says guests learned about the history of Southwest Georgia, the quality of life here, and the importance of the bobwhite quail. During other events, such as the Georgia Chamber’s Georgia Red Carpet Tour, participants fly into Atlanta and that’s all they see, he continues.

“We want to show everything we’ve got because it’s not a one size fits all; not every project needs to be in metro Atlanta or in the Port of Savannah. They need to be in different places and we just need to be better about finding the right projects that fit here, like our focus on agribusiness.”

This year’s event includes more regional hosts and local officials, invited out to meet the guests and talk about the assets and benefits of doing business in this region, he says. Additionally, there were more guests in attendance than in past years, with 28 making the trip to Southwest Georgia this year, compared to 18 last year. 

“It’s the largest group we’ve ever had, representing hundreds of projects all over the world,” including headquarters projects as well as manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics and distribution.  “Any of the types of projects we’d like to have in Southwest Georgia and in Georgia,” says Clark.

Also different this year is an increase in the number of hunts guests can participate in and the expansion from two to three host communities, which this year includes Albany, Dawson and Sylvester.

The Georgia Quail Hunt is drawing on assistance from members of Locate South Georgia, a group of multiple chambers and development authorities who’ve joined forces to woo new business and industry to this corner of the state. Members not only brought in prospects, but they’re also playing host and volunteering during this week’s event. 

“It’s great to see bank presidents and others, driving people around, giving guests an opportunity to meet local folks who aren’t necessarily being paid to sell the community like the rest of us are, and they like that,” says Clark.

Also critical is the exposure local chambers and development authorities to statewide project managers, giving them an opportunity to share what’s available in Southwest Georgia, an easy sell when it comes to quality of life and the benefits of doing business in the region, says Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. He cites the low cost of doing business and the low regulatory environment among attributes here, adding that exposure to the region is vital to opportunities that will present themselves in the future, whether it’s a year or 10 years following the event.

Among the success stories resulting from past Georgia Quail Hunt events are the relocation to Albany of Coats & Clarks North American distribution headquarters in 2010, bringing its total number of employees here to about 700 currently. In addition, the company leased the empty Delco building on Holly Drive and doubled the square footage to over 400,000, says Scott Rohaley, vice president of customer service & distribution and planning.

His experience during the 2012 Georgia Quail Hunt “was the deciding factor” in moving Outdoor Network’s call center and distribution center to Albany from Lake Placid, Florida later that year, says Tom D’Azevedo, owner, adding that assistance from Justin Strickland, president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, with expediting permitting was critical to their success. Since locating here, the company has doubled the footprint of its distribution center and today employs about 110 people.

The Georgia Quail Hunt is an incredible collaboration between local, regional, state and corporate partners,” says Strickland, adding that the infrastructure, skilled work force and low costs of doing business in Albany and Southwest Georgia make this an attractive location for industry locations and expansions.

 “If we can get people to come to Georgia and experience what we have going on….we make a case that it’s a great place to do business, but it’s also a great place to live,” adds Carr.

“When you get a chance to be outdoors, come to the quail hunt, shoot skeet, see the RiverQuarium, you get to see what we’re talking about as far as living in Georgia and doing business in Georgia. That experience is really what we’re aiming for by bringing folks here and having our regional and statewide partners here. It’s a great opportunity.”

Since 1994, guests of the Georgia Quail Hunt have invested more than $2.5 billion and created more than 8,500 jobs in the state as a result of corporate locations or expansions.

“Our guests learn about the assets we have to offer in Georgia and the services we can provide at all stages of a company’s growth,” said 2016 Georgia Quail

Hunt Chair Daryl Ingram, senior vice president of Electric Cities of Georgia. “They experience some of the best quail hunting in the country while interacting with the governor, lieutenant governor, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, numerous state hosts and local chamber and economic development leaders. We hope to leave them with a strong impression of why Georgia is the No. 1 state for business in the nation.”

The Georgia Quail Hunt continues to be one of the premier economic development events in the nation, adds Clark. “We appreciate the support of our partners in continuing this valuable economic development event to attract and grow business in our state.”

In addition to the Georgia Allies, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Locate South Georgia, corporate sponsors include Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, MillerCoors, PowerSports Plus, Glock and Heckler & Koch.