Statesboro and Bulloch County now boasts its own version of the Thompson Twins.
The boards of the Development Authority of Bulloch County and Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce recently announced the hiring of Benjy Thompson and Phyllis Thompson to fill executive positions within the organizations.
Benjy Thompson will serve as CEO of the Development Authority and the Chamber. Phyllis Thompson was hired as president of the Chamber, and will report to Thompson. Although unrelated, it is apparent to their predecessor that a strong working relationship is being forged between the two.
"I think that both boards did an excellent job in choosing Benjy and Phyllis," said Peggy Chapman, outgoing Development Authority of Bulloch County executive director and Statesboro Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce president. "I think both will fit together like a glove, and I have no doubt that they will do a tremendous job in their respective positions."
When Chapman announced several months ago that she intended to retire at the end of this year, it was decided by the boards of both organizations that, going forward, her position and duties should be carried out by two individuals instead of just one.
"I think that was the right move, because the Chamber and Development Authority now have somebody working 100 percent of the time on their behalf, and that is what needed to happen," she said.
While Benjy Thompson will serve as CEO of the Development Authority and the Chamber, his main focus day in and day out will be spent as head of the Development Authority.
"I think we are at a point where it would be appropriate to pursue economic development on a number of fronts," Thompson said. "It is the right time to broaden our focus a bit. From manufacturing to information technology, we are uniquely positioned to go after a broad base of prospects while continuing to work with those companies that have already shown interest."
When asked about keeping the close working relationship of the Chamber and Development Authority in tact, Benjy Thompson said the model is not unique, and in fact is used in many other cities around the state.
"It really isn't unusual to have a development authority working so closely with a chamber," he said. "A large part of economic development is selling your community to a prospect, and a strong, active, and involved chamber is a vital part of that. In a number of ways, they go hand-in-hand."
After a successful corporate career as a physician recruiter for Naples, Fla., based Health Management Associates, Phyllis Thompson is returning to work full-time in the community that she has called "home" since her days as a student at Georgia Southern.
"Even though I worked around the country, and my company's offices were based in Florida, I never moved from Statesboro," she said. "My husband and I have always kept our home here."
Thompson said she will spend the next few weeks re-orienting herself with the local business community.
"I need to become current on all the developments that affect or direct the Chamber's course of activity," she said. "I want to talk with Chamber members, business people who aren't members yet, and try to discern opportunities from like-organizations that I have encountered in my travels."
Both Thompsons will rely heavily on their past experience as they move forward. Benjy Thompson was Founding Director of the School of Economic Development at Georgia Southern University, and most recently served as vice president for Economic Development at Ogeechee Technical College.
"Even though neither Phyllis or I were born in Bulloch County, I feel like we've lived here and worked here long enough to be considered as from Bulloch County," he said. "At least I hope that people think of us that way. I love this community, and I know what it has to offer. My background will help me sell what those who live here already know. This is a great place for industry of all types."
Benjy Thompson began his new position Nov. 15. Phyllis Thompson will assume her role at the beginning of the year.
"Bulloch County has inordinate resources - economic diversity, educational institutions, businesses that are influential beyond county and state lines," she said. "I'm not walking into a ground floor, but a well-stocked, established program with a long history of stellar leadership. My goal is to take what we have all been given and contribute all I can for those who will follow."