Writer: Roger Nielsen

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government continues to help economic development professionals from across Georgia learn effective ways to help local industries grow. Thirty-six economic development professionals from across the state attended a new Business Retention and Expansion course in December at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Registration is underway for another presentation of Business Retention and Expansion, scheduled Feb. 5 at the UGA Tifton Conference Center.

Business Retention and Expansion is the second course in a professional training series the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach (PSO) created to address some of the state’s most pressing economic development challenges. The first course, Financing Economic Development and Deal Structuring, debuted in 2013. A third course on marketing a community and attracting industry is under development through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, one of eight PSO units at the university.

“Our purpose in creating this program is to be responsive to identified needs and to provide courses based on best practices that are customized for economic development professionals in Georgia,” said lead instructor Dennis Epps, the Institute of Government’s deputy director.

The course provides critical training on topics such as designing an effective retention and expansion program and identifying workforce needs.

Instructor Leigh Acevedo, the business retention manager with the Savannah Economic Development Authority, led a section in the December course that examined successful retention programs.

“It behooves any organization of any size to pay attention to their existing industries. And a business retention system can be implemented inexpensively because the crux of what you’re trying to do is establish relationships,” Acevedo said.

Tiffany Rainey, a Washington-Wilkes economic development director, attended the December course and said that she gained important knowledge about how a smaller community can establish a successful retention program.

“I felt that the training was excellent,” Rainey said. “Since we are a small community, it’s very important that we retain the jobs that we have. This will help me map out an effective retention plan.”

In addition to business retention techniques, the course addresses the roles incentives play in retention strategies, tools for increasing the effectiveness of job growth programs and methods for evaluating a program’s success. Course instructors also present case study analyses relevant to the Georgia practitioner.

The Economic Development Professionals Training series exemplifies how PSO uses UGA’s resources and expertise to strengthen Georgia’s economic vitality. A related program offers comprehensive training for members of local economic development authorities. Five development authority training sessions will be held in 2015, led by Institute of Government faculty member Jennifer Nelson, an instructor in the Business Retention and Expansion course who recently joined the Institute from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.