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Cooperation seen as way to compete in new century

Forward Grenada launches public/private initiative

GRENADA — Grenada is poised to meet the challenges of competing in the 21st century with a recently-launched, $1.5-million public/private partnership campaign called Forward Grenada, Alliance for Economic Development.

“It is really great to see the city, county and private sector leadership all standing together to support the private-public partnership that is key to the whole situation,” said Bill McGowan, campaign development director for Forward Grenada.

The campaign kickoff Jan. 22 drew about 350 people for discussion of the partnership designed to marshal collective resources to grow the economy of the Grenada area. The campaign has already topped $1 million in pledges, which represents 69% of the goal of $1.5 million.

“With the creation of the new Forward Grenada Alliance, an unprecedented cooperative partnership is being forged between the public and private sector to involve business and community leaders from throughout Grenada County,” McGowan said. “Grenada is a community redefining itself for the 21st century. Grenada County is blessed with many assets: a good school system, a strong industrial base, a community college and an industrial center. The area is both a regional center of commerce and a recreation center with a 35,000-acre lake, an expanding airport, four interstate exchanges, and a core of concerned, proactive leaders.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

Grenada businesses are linking up to overcome common obstacles to growth such as work force development. McGowan said local businesses need more employees who have a strong work ethic and are trainable. Competition is increasing, and small businesses need easier access to programs that will help them become more competitive.

“Also, competition for attracting industry has stiffened around the state and the country,” McGowan said. “Grenada’s leadership must raise the bar and address these issues.”

The general campaign co-chairs for Forward Grenada are James L. Brown, president and CEO of Union Planters Bank N.A., and Stewart E. Thomas, senior vice president and general manager of News Print South Inc.

GETTING THE BALL ROLLING

Local industry leaders in Grenada recognized specific training needs that were not being met for the existing, as well as future, work force. A steering committee was initiated to address this issue impacting potential industrial growth and development.

A collaborative work force training effort was begun in 1996 with representatives from industry, Holmes Community College and the Grenada Chamber of Commerce working on plans to locate an Industrial Training Center at the Grenada Center of Holmes Community College. The purpose of the center will be to provide customized technical training programs and technical curriculums to improve and upgrade the skills of existing and potential employees.

It is estimated that in the year 2000 65% of the work force will consist of skilled labor, which is defined as jobs requiring advanced technical training beyond that which is presented by a high school diploma or a four-year college degree.

Industrial programs at Holmes Community College trained 2,063 people from July 1997 through March 1998. Thirty-seven companies within a 60-mile radius of Grenada were involved.

McGowan said a lot of hard work and many hours of planning have been devoted to work force development. The following funding commitments have been made:

• $1 million from Holmes Community College.

• $1 million from Heatcraft Inc. over 10 years.

• $2 million from the City of Grenada over 10 years.

• The Grenada Chamber of Commerce has pledged $600,000 over five years.

Total estimated cost to complete the proposed Industrial Training Center project is $4 million.

Forward Grenada has a goal of creating 750 new direct jobs, and 1,043 indirect jobs. That would represent a direct payroll of $18 million, and an indirect payroll of $35 million.

Other components of the economic and community growth strategy include business recruitment and expansion, small business support and quality of life/community improvement.

A five-year budget of $325,000 is earmarked for the following business recruitment and expansion efforts:

• Establish interstate billboards to heighten awareness of the industrial park.

• Develop a national and international advertising and marketing program to attract new business and industry.

• Expand cooperative advertising programs with state and regional organizations.

• Conduct targeted industry outreach through direct mail programs to include supplies to existing businesses and industry.

SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESS

Forward Grenada has an estimated five-year budget of $175,000 for small business support including developing, financing and building a local small business incubator that will be part of a network of incubators in the region. Plans are in the works to organize a regional, non-profit organization to operate the proposed Three County Incubator Network. A regional advertising and marketing plan to increase retail and commercial business activity is also planned.

Other small business support programs include programs, publications and seminars to promote the growth and development of small and minority businesses. A comprehensive Internet Web site is planned which would link local businesses to facilitate electronic commerce.

About Becky Gillette

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