VALDOSTA -- The economy is showing signs of a recovery, and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority is starting to hear from more prospective industries interested in locating to the area.

At an Authority meeting Tuesday, Executive Director Ken Garren announced two more prospects have contacted the Authority this week, bringing the number that are currently interested to four. Garren said both of the newest prospects are warehouse and distribution centers interested in existing properties. One is looking for a 150,000-square-foot building, and the other is looking for a 200,000-square-foot building.

Assistant Authority Director Vicki Hughes said in a recent meeting with Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism officials, the sharp decline in prospect visits over the past 12 months was discussed as well as the outlook for a recovery. She said GDITT officials informed her that the number of recommendations for Valdosta being made by site managers has actually increased as more of them are becoming familiar with the area.

The Authority discussed the various methods they are using to attract new business and industry, with a revamped Web site,, and participation in national trade shows with state officials.

Garren stated that in the old days, company representatives would make site visits in person and the Authority knew who they were dealing with. "Today, we don't even know who these prospects are until well into the search for sites," he said, as increasingly, companies are turning to consultants to help them make site selection decisions.

In an effort to make state site selectors more aware of what the city and county have to offer, the Authority has been invited to make a presentation to a group of them on Dec. 2 in Atlanta. The Authority is also hosting the new GDITT commissioner in Valdosta for a day, on Dec. 8.

"We are using any method we can," said Garren, to attract new business to the community, "and it appears to be working."

The Authority also heard updates on several ongoing projects, including:

William Slone of Slone and Associates, an existing industry in Valdosta, announced that his company is nearing completion of its new site in the Azalea West Business Park. He stated that the company's business has grown so much recently, they've had to increase employment by 20 to 25 percent. The company specializes in military construction and will host an official grand opening in early December;

American Drill Bushing anticipates closing on its new building in the Perimeter East Industrial Park in early November;

The Oct. 17 Letica grand opening went well and was the culmination, according to Garren, of five years and 11 months work;

The master drainage plan for the Lake Park Industrial Park is under review by the county engineer and will take several years to complete. Bill Kent of ASA Engineering stated that the work will be done in several phases, with the most pressing need of diverting water away from businesses in the park addressed first;

The Fall Feather Hunt is Dec. 10-12, and the local Authority is participating in the Southwest Georgia event, which will be held in Albany. The annual quail hunt is used as a means of attracting prospective business and industry to Georgia;

Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce President Andy Deal gave a presentation to the Authority on the various programs the Chamber has to complement their business and industry recruitment and retention efforts;

The Authority voted to close the meeting and adjourned to an Executive Session to discuss real estate.

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

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