New year already showing signs of new growth

The new year seems to have brought some new construction and moving of dirt around Bainbridge and Decatur County.

On Shotwell Street, within walking distance of each other, two construction projects are well underway. Nicole Nichols is expanding her women’s apparel store, Bella’s Boutique. At the same time, site preparation is ongoing for the new location of Five-Star Credit Union, on the site of what was Buyer’s Choice used cars.

Over behind Sammy’s Bait and Tackle, a fresh seafood market is close to opening. Also, site preparation is beginning on what will be a car wash, adjacent to the Holiday Inn Express on Tallahassee Highway. Construction will begin soon on a new building in Commodore Industrial Park by timber equipment manufacturer R-Squared Solutions.

Look for a story soon with more details on these projects, in The Post-Searchlight.

These privately-funded projects are in addition to the county’s construction of the new agriculture building near the fairgrounds, and the renovation of Bainbridge City Hall, which is close to beginning.

While none of these projects, standing alone, are earth-shattering, when considered in total, they are all very important — important in the sense that growth activity has returned to our community. Regardless of how big, how expensive, or what will the buildings will contain, the important aspect is that buildings are being built, dirt is being moved, and people are being put to work by virtue of these projects.

When you see people tearing up asphalt, doing masonry work, doing framing work, or whatever the activity is, the people are working. That’s a very good thing and much needed.

In my view, near the top of any elected official’s priority list should be job creation, given how the recession has negatively affected jobs in our area the last couple of years. Starting from the White House, down to our State Capitol, to our city and county leaders, job creation should be very much top of mind.

About a year ago, there was proposed legislation in Atlanta that would change the open records law in Georgia when dealing with economic development. Currently, very few records are closed when those records are created by any governmental agency. Those records include economic development or recruitment, from the state-level down to our own Development Authority.

Last year’s proposed legislation would have loosened the laws, relative to economic development, to allow more records and dealings to be kept close to the vest when negotiating with potential companies to locate in Georgia.

When recruiting new industry, the competition is fierce. Fierce between states, fierce between cities and fierce between counties.

Most of Georgia’s main competitors in luring new industry — Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee — are not compelled by law to make details of negotiations public until the deal is done. That’s not the case in Georgia, where open-records laws often require those dealings to be made public ahead of time. They know the cards we are holding, but we don’t have the same advantage.

Legislation will be introduced again, during this new legislative session, to loosen the lawsand allow more negotiations to remain closed on a state level. I was against any such changes when this was proposed last year, however, the way of thinking has changed, by many people throughout the state.

Don’t misunderstand, I will be the first to defend the public’s right to know, when it comes to records or meetings. To me, there is no gray area when it comes to sunshine laws.

But, I believe there is room to compromise and change the statute to give Georgia the best opportunity to succeed and add much needed jobs. And, at the same time, provide the needed oversight by the public.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.

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