Existing industry group forming

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2003

A small group of industry and economic development leaders met Friday to discuss the creation of a new working group.

The Existing Industry Association, an off-shoot of the Pike County Economic Development Corp., will bring representatives of current industries in Pike and surrounding counties together with economic developers to identify issues and address needs that arise with individual companies.

&uot;The purpose of the group is two-fold,&uot; PCEDC president Marsha Gaylard said. &uot;The first is to communicate on a regular basis among the development and industry.&uot;

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The other side of the coin, Gaylard said, was to help existing industries access a vast array of assistance programs ranging from training opportunities to financial resources that could help with expansion projects.

&uot;We want a lot of dialog going back and forth between the industries and other people so that we can make sure that our local industries are always made aware of any type of resource or tools so that their business climate

is success,&uot; she said.

Economic developers nationwide recognize the importance of such existing industry support.

Alabama Development Office executive director Neal Wade said existing industry accounts for 75-80 percent of all industrial growth in the state. He said that percentage would also hold true for growth on a local level.

&uot;The majority of the state's growth is from within,&uot; he said. &uot;I think most states have not focused as much on existing industry as recruiting (new industrial locations).&uot;

Wade said Gov. Bob Riley wants development to focus on growing from within.

&uot;This group is doing something that meets that focus. With an existing industry working group, Marsha can identify needs that existing industry has and, if she can do that early in the process and we (ADO) know about it, we can help solve the problems.&uot;

Gaylard and her small group of organizers - including representatives from Lockheed and Sikorsky - are not only trying to stem off problems, but are trying to create and sustain growth.

&uot;The reason we're doing this is because of the importance of our existing industry. They are the lifeblood of our communities.

&uot;Sometimes the perception is that recruitment of new industry takes precedence over tending to the needs of our existing industry. That's why I feel this organization is going to be so important - it'll keep our existing industry at the forefront of what we're trying to do as economic developers.

Alex Whaley owns Whaley Construction Co. in Troy, and knows that his company's lifeblood is tied directly to growth here.

&uot;Existing industry is equal to recruitment,&uot; he said, noting that without Lockheed's successful location on Troy, later growth such as the company's current expansion would have gone to Arkansas.

&uot;The project we're building now (for Lockheed) wouldn't have been possible without strong support from economic development.

&uot;That's my jobs come from, that's where all the business on the bypass comes from, where the hotels come from. If you didn't have the Lockheeds, the Sikorskys, or the Wal-Marts, we wouldn't have these opportunities.&uot;

&uot;Troy is almost a small island of prosperity

it's through the economic development effort that makes that possible,&uot; Whaley said.