VALDOSTA -- Although Valdosta may not have the selection of restaurants and stores many locals would like to see, the city is still the envy of others around the state, according to Jim O'Bryan, senior business development officer with the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (GEMC).

In town this week to meet with Chamber President Myrna Ballard and real estate appraiser Alan Sutton, O'Bryan's job with the cooperative is to assist its 42 member owners statewide in attracting new business to their communities, including Colquitt EMC in South Georgia.

"With more communities dependent on sales tax revenue, not property taxes, it's my job to find big retailers, which are big customers for our local members. The community's growth is good for their business," O'Bryan said.

He said Valdosta is experiencing tremendous growth at a time when other cities in Georgia of similar and even larger size are struggling just to keep what they've got, putting the city in an enviable position economically.

Ballard asked O'Bryan for assistance with attracting Joann Fabrics, a large, national fabric store, to Valdosta. The store was the sixth most requested business in the "Business Wish List" reader poll conducted by The Valdosta Daily Times in November of 2002, and is the only business on the list for which there is no similar, direct competitor in the area.

"We recruit businesses to provide services to our member realtors, brokers, developers, contractors, and appraisers, not to provide more competition in the community," Ballard said.

Sutton made several suggestions on ways he felt the Chamber and GEMC could help to market Valdosta as a whole, including asking member brokers to provide information on available property listings, making use of the multiple listing service, and providing more detailed information on the Chamber web site so potential retailers and developers could easily find the market demographics and geographic location information they rely heavily on.

Sutton said the easier the community can make it for the site selectors, the better the chance of bringing them to town to take a look at the area.

O'Bryan agreed to assist the Chamber in a number of ways, including contacting Joann Fabrics, providing demographic information to the company, and also expressed interest in assisting with several of the other businesses in the Top Ten of the Times reader poll, including Dillards and Olive Garden.

GEMC is the largest electric membership cooperative in the country and the only electric company in the state with a staff position dedicated to business recruitment.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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