Development Authority introduces BRAT

VALDOSTA — Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority's Business Retention Action Team, or BRAT, brings together a number of local and state organizations to offer services, information, solutions and contacts that a company might need.

“We've always had an existing industry program,” said Meghan Duke,VLDA marketing and community relations. “These organizations have always worked together, but now we’re formalizing it.”

Each of the eight organizations has a team member on BRAT, helping to coordinate their respective organization's efforts and collaborate with other members of the team.

“This gives us the ability to say we're not just there for you in the beginning, we're there for you always,” said Andrea Schruijer,VLDA executive director. “It's a long-term partnership that we want to maintain. Once you're here, we want to make sure we provide you with the opportunity to grow and work through any opportunities you have.”

Let's meet the team.

Georgia Department of Economic Development – Michelle Shaw

“They do the incentive side of it, the statutory tax incentives, but they also do business-to-business matches from an international standpoint,” said Schruijer.

The GDED offers access to capital, state grants, connections with international business and export assistance, as well as market research data and a supplier match program.

Two other programs under the GDED's umbrella are the Georgia Centers for Innovation — focused on research, innovation, identifying new markets and collaborations — and Georgia Quick Start — focusing on training, creating training manual for business, and skill development.

Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce – Myrna Ballard

Among other things, the VLCCC runs the SEEDS (Sowing Entrepreneur and Economic Development Success) Business Resource Center, which offers custom market data, industry profiles, demographic reports, competitor information and targeted sales leads.

"We get people who come in here with great ideas,” said Schruijer, “and we have two wonderful entities that help get businesses started: the Chamber of Commerce and the SBDC (Small Business Development Center)."

University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center – Lynn Bennett

Part of Valdosta State University's Harvey Langdale Jr. College of Business, the SBDC offers a number of services to entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Entrepreneurs can learn how to create a business plan, create and develop marketing strategies, identify sources of capital, get training and take advantage of one-on-one business consulting.

Valdosta-Lowndes County

Development Authority – Stan Crance

The VLCDA offers a number of financing tools once businesses reach the brick-and-mortar stage as well as help with site selection.

The VLCDA also has access to demographic and market research, and has partnering with World Trade Center in Savannah, which helps companies both with exporting their products and importing products and materials the company may need.

Georgia Department of Labor, Valdosta Career Center – Jamon Williams

The local branch of the GDL offers companies recruitment assistance, wage and labor market information, a way to screen and refer qualified applicants and access to networking opportunities and seminars.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College – Bill Tillman

The WGTC offers customized training programs, college-credit programs and continuing education.

Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute – Art Ford

The GTEII's Georgia's Manufacturing Extension Partnership offers a number of resources for manufacturing companies: workforce development, energy management, product development, sustainability, safety and health, technology acceleration, quality management systems and continuous improvement/lean manufacturing.

Georgia Power Company – Scott Purvis

That GPC offers energy audits to businesses is no surprise, but Georgia Power's Economic Development Engineering Department also has a wealth of state-wide data on workforce, facilities, suppliers, etc.

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