NGTC students given more credit transfer options

North Georgia Technical College and Piedmont College have signed a new credit transfer agreement for their criminal justice programs, allowing students to articulate into the 4-year Piedmont College and retain their credits from NGTC. This new agreement is in addition to prior transfer agreements for students in business and nursing programs.

3G network unveiled in Toccoa

Yesterday, AT&T today announced the availability of its 3G mobile broadband network in Toccoa. More than 100 square miles of new 3G coverage across Toccoa now opens the door to a new era of mobile services, devices and feature-rich audio and video content for area businesses and local residents. With 3G speeds, you can surf the web, download files faster than ever, and enjoy the very latest interactive mobile applications.

“Technology is such a big part of our lives both personally and in our businesses. Having infrastructure enhancements like AT&T’s 3G service here in Toccoa adds to our already high quality of life,” said Wendi Bailey, President and CEO of the Toccoa-Stephens Chamber of Commerce. We’re thankful for AT&T’s capital investment in our community.”

Development Authority newsletter

The Winter edition of SCDA's "State of Stephens" e-newsletter is now available online: Click to view...

Economic Developers Tour Stephens County

Stephens County is a community equipped for and supportive of economic development. This was the message of the second fall 2009 “Developer Day” event hosted by the Stephens County Development Authority. Five statewide economic development project managers from Georgia EMC, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Power Company, and the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission toured the community. The trip focused on Stephens County’s development-ready sites, buildings, work force, and leadership so as to help project managers better foster development in the area.

Tim Ash, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and Representative Michael Harden served as the “chauffeurs” for the day. Joe Moore and Bryon Whitworth of American Woodmark took the group on a tour of the facility. The group also viewed several available industrial buildings and sites in the Meadowbrook Industrial Park and Hayestone Brady Business Park, including the 80,000 square feet Rooker spec building. Stephens County High School Principal Felton Stephens gave them a tour of his school, highlighting the improved graduation rate. The project managers also got a glimpse at the natural sights of Toccoa with stops at Toccoa Falls and Paul Anderson Park.

The economic developers joined local leaders from the City and County government, healthcare, education, and real estate sectors for lunch at the Willard Kimsey Environmental Education Center (Straw House). The statewide guests gave an overview of their agencies and projects, and local leaders were able to address their concerns and perspectives on local development projects.

Rope Roberts, Georgia Power Company: “My job is to help communities with all faces of economic development. One of the positive things I can say about Stephens County – and I have always pushed this – is the labor force trained in metal working, which goes back to LeTourneau days. Not everybody can work metal. When we can say we have a metal working company, we can say we have a great work force in this area.”

Chip Wright, Georgia Mountains Regional Commission: “What I do at the Regional Commission is community design. I work with Toccoa and other communities to utilize resources that they already have in hand, which a lot of times are historic downtowns. To make these places gathering spaces again… branches out and helps with the attraction of business and economy building enterprises. Once people who are looking to relocate their businesses in your community see that you have a pride in your community, it makes Toccoa–Stephens County the place they want to be.”

Taube Ponce, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Global Commerce Division: “Companies that export generally have a higher growth rate than companies that don’t export. They generally pay higher wages and are more stable. One of the silver linings of our current economic situation is that the dollar is low, which…for exporters is great because our products are even more competitive now. Exporting is a wonderful tool for economic development, and communities don’t often think about that. We and our offices can help companies find markets for their products.”

David Austin, City of Toccoa: “We are so glad to have you here today. We think a lot of our City and County and we’ve worked a lot with you over the years to make things even better. I welcome you to Toccoa-Stephens County and hope you come back.”

Tim Ash, Toccoa-Stephens Co. Chamber of Commerce: Stephens County is ready, willing and able to accept new businesses and acclimate our workforce to those businesses. We are doing a lot of things right these days and just need the rest of the world to get the message. We appreciate your being here to see what’s taking place and to contribute what you can to help us along.”

Cam Parker, Stephens Co. Development Authority: “As local economic developers, one of the most important things we can do is try to be good partners with statewide organizations. We want to do our very best to help you help us, and part of that is communicating, just like we are today, what we think are some of our strengths. One of our strengths is our people, who know how to work and have a strong work ethic. They also give us the tools to be a good partner with you, passing SPLOST V – 80% of which was for economic development – with a 72% vote. Our leaders are also pro-business, pro-growth. They get along and they want to progress. We want to be good partners. If you need us to do something just let us know, and we’ll give it our best.”

Some interesting data about local spending...

Stephens County proclaimed a "Work Ready Certified Community"

On Monday, November 2, Governor Sonny Perdue proclaimed Stephens County a “Work Ready Certified Community” at the Work Ready Awards Luncheon in Atlanta, giving community leaders a framed certificate listing the County’s achievements. This announcement is the culmination of a process that began in early 2007. The effort to gain certification was led by Gordon Broome, Work Ready Community Team Leader, in coordination with the North Georgia Technical College, the school system, the Stephens County Development Authority, and other community organizations.

The Georgia Work Ready program is a voluntary initiative which enables communities to demonstrate that they have the talented workforce needed to fill current and future jobs. The certification also shows a community’s commitment to education and to improving high school graduation rates, important factors for driving businesses to an area. To become certified, specified numbers of community residents had to pass the Work Ready Assessment in six different categories: Technical college graduates, GED holders, unemployed adults, high school graduates entering the workforce, current high school seniors, and college graduates or recent attendees. The County’s target of 418 certifications within 36 months was completed in 26 months with 833 Work Certified residents.

Another requirement related to improving the High School graduation rate. Over the last two years, the school system has improved that rate by 15.5 points; from 63.1% to 78.6%. This achievement is well above the basic requirement of 2 points per year.

What is also significant about Stephens County’s achievement is the percentage of assessed individuals who scored at the “Gold” level and are thereby considered able to perform 90% of the jobs in Georgia. 29% of Stephens County’s certified individuals scored at the “Gold” level versus only 20% statewide, proving the local workforce to be well above average. The Work Ready Assessment includes four passing categories – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

The County’s certification process continues. Over the next two years, the Community Team must sustain its efforts to increase the numbers of businesses requiring workers to gain certification, assess more individuals, improve scores of non-passers, and maintain a high school graduation rate above 75%.

22 out of 159 counties in Georgia are currently Work Ready Certified Communities. Stephens, Franklin, and Hart are the only three contiguous counties in the state to reach this designation.

“Our work force is our most important economic development tool,” says Cam Parker, Stephens County Development Authority Chairman. “We literally market ourselves to prospective businesses, and this designation proves what we already knew: our work force is second to none.”

“What we’ve demonstrated in the last 26-month period is that above average skills exist in Stephens County,” states Gordon Broome, Stephens County Work Ready Community Team Leader. “We are going to continue to actively promote this asset and increase it by using job gap training and other opportunities of the Work Ready program.”