Troy, CGI perfect fit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 31, 2009

Of the 11 Alabama cities CGI considered for its new home, Troy wasn’t one of them.

In fact, it wasn’t until a month into the recruiting process, the Friday afternoon before the July 4 holiday, Troy even became a consideration.

“We had a friend on the state economic development team that kept telling them Troy would be perfect,” said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. “They said, we’ll give Troy two hours on Tuesday.”

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Lunsford said at first, he didn’t think much would come of the company’s visit. But 75 days later, Ala. Gov. Bob Riley announced CGI’s move to the city, something that marked industrial history in Pike County.

Before making a final decision, CGI looked at spots in all 50 states, ultimately narrowing it down to three — Alabama, Ohio and Virginia.

It all started with two hours. But just what was it that made Troy the choice above everywhere else?

Well, it wasn’t just one thing, said Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation.

“One of their primary criteria requirements was to locate in a rural area that either had a university or was within close proximity to one,” Gaylard said. “But, I think of the major reasons that they liked Troy right off the bat was because of the hospitality that they received on their first visit.”

Lunsford agreed.

From the minute CGI arrived in Troy, their company’s team was met by a recruitment team Gaylard designed specifically for the company.

“Our recruitment team was made up of people that could provide answers to every site selection criteria that they had,” Gaylard said. “We all made them feel like it would be easy to become a part of our community.”

Gaylard said every company that visits Troy is met with a similar team.

“When a company comes to look at our community, I could tell them everything they want to know,” Gaylard said. “But they want to look at who’s responsible.”

So with CGI in mind, Gaylard quickly formed her team: Alex Whaley, John Schmidt, Jack Hawkins, Johnny Witherington, Jason Reeves, Jimmy Copeland, Greg Price, Robin Sullivan, Vic DeBruney, Lori Richburg, Sen. Wendell Mitchell, Rep. Alan Boothe and of course, Lunsford and herself.

Reeves’s and Witherington’s roles were to represent the city of Troy, and Sullivan was present as head of the Pike County Commission.

Whaley, head of Whaley Construction, attested the construction needed for CGI’s move would be possible, Gaylard said.

Schmidt’s role was two-fold, as he is both president of the Pike County Economic Development Board and a senior vice chancellor at Troy University.

And, University Chancellor Hawkins’ and Schmidt’s presence combined were especially key to the process.

“I can’t stress enough (how the chancellor impressed us),” said CGI’s Vice President of Human Resources and Onshore Delivery Stacey Martin. “Never before has a chancellor himself visited us on the first day.”

Price, head of Troy University’s IT Department, played a key role in the choice of CGI’s location.

Gaylard said she had chosen a few different potential sites to show the company.

“The site they liked best was one next to the Sportsplex, and that’s where they thought they would go,” Lunsford said. “Then they met Greg Price.”

Price, who transformed a portion of Park Lane for the university’s IT Department in just 90 days, showed CGI just what could be done — and that it could be done quickly.

Copeland, with Troy Cable, was present to discuss the city’s available fiber-optic infrastructure in place.

DeBruney and Richburg, with Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky respectively, were available to represent existing industry.

Gaylard said DeBruney discussed the quality of the workforce Lockheed Martin has obtained in Pike County and the company’s low turnover rate. So low, in fact, it’s “not even counted,” Lunsford said.

Richburg discussed how quickly Sikorsky was able to hire people in its move to Troy.

“They immediately brought the community to meet us and greet us,” Martin said.

“We just felt there was the right business and political relationship.”

There were other criteria Gaylard said the company sought.

“They wanted to know there was a larger airport within an hour’s drive,” she said. “The state fit the criteria as far as tax structures and the overhead expenses in their criteria.”

The city of Troy also gave some incentives of its own, like offering meeting spaces and economic bonuses, as well.

“Hotels gave us a lot of comp rooms for when they have to come here and stay,” Gaylard said. “It was just a huge partnership with so many people that helped us recruit this company.

“That was one the things I think sold them on Troy — the feeling they got when they came here, how everyone is willing to work together.”