EDA could expand

Published 12:49 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority Director Wiley Blankenship could spend all of his time working to help existing industry in the three-county region the EDA serves.
But between marketing the area to new industry and setting up the EDA office, he just doesn't have the time.
So the EDA is considering hiring a new staff member to work only with existing industries in Escambia, Conecuh and Monroe counties.
Those industries need attention from someone who can help them find grants and other incentives if they want to expand or add jobs.
While the EDA works hard to attract new jobs, he emphasized that new jobs in any community often come from the industries that are already located there.
And Blankenship said it is the job of economic development officials to let existing industries know what incentives are available if they want to expand their workforce or add new equipment.
Currently, Blankenship said he knows of eight industries in the tri-county area that are considering expansion in the next year to 18 months - but he's only had time to call on 15 of those industries.
If the CGEDA hires a new staff member, that person would work directly with local economic development officials to call on existing industries.
But Blankenship said the EDA wants to wait to hire a new staff person until it has a better picture of its future finances. Counties and local municipalities are working on their new budgets now, and Blankenship said he hopes they continue to fund the EDA at its current level.

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