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CGEDA has positive first year

By By MICHELE GERLACH – Publisher
A year ago, Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority was still finding its way.
The organization, formed to promote Conecuh, Monroe and Escambia counties as one region, has evolved into a high-energy organization involved in multiple initiatives aimed at improving the region's economy.
In the past year, the organization has hired a marketing firm, changed its name, opened an office, announced two new industries in the region, and found its footing.
Working with the Mobile marketing firm of Sulllivan-St. Clair, the authority agreed to change its name from Tri-County Industrial Development Authority to a name that made the organization more identifiable. Several options were considered and &#8220Coastal Gateway” was chosen.
CGEDA now has a new logo and a new web site (www.cgeda.net) set for launch on March 1.
CGEDA also plans a billboard campaign.
Toward that end, Coastal Gateway has focused its sales and recruitment efforts on three industries – aviation, wood and wood products and transportation/distribution companies. &#8220We're not trying to land a Boeing plant,” Blankenship said. &#8220We're looking at companies that will employ 100 to 125 people.”
The three-county area is ideally situated as a location for an aviation maintenance or repair facility, he said.
Earlier this month, Blankenship attended the world's largest aviation fly-in in Singapore. This week, he'll be in Dallas to attend a helio-expo as part of the effort to recruit aviation industries to the area.
Blankenship said there are several OSB (oriented strand board) mills &#8220shopping” for new locations and that these or other wood-products industries would fit well with other wood-related industries already in the three-county area promoted by CGEDA. The region also provides an ideal fit for transportation and distribution companies, he said, because of the proximity to the interstate. Atmore has a mixed-used business park located at the intersection of Hwy. 21 and I-65, and CGEDA owns property at the intersection of Hwy. 41 and I-65.
Coastal Gateway chose several initiatives during a recent board retreat, Blankenship said, adding that committees have been set up to work on those initiatives. Those include committees to work on legislative affairs and, public policy; communities, including working together and promoting tourism; and existing industry.
On of the tourism initiatives Coastal Gateway has working on is a birding trail. The region's forests and natural resources make it ideal for attracting bird watchers.
Blankenship said Marshall Rogers, executive director of the Escambia County Industrial Development Authority, is assisting him and board members with calls on each of the existing industries in the region. Coastal Gateway has set itself a goal of completing 45-minute to one-hour interviews with each existing industry to determine their needs and potential for expansion.