Business and economic developer Jeremy Hill left a Screven County audience with long faces Thursday morning, as his predictions for the Southeast were more dismal than optimistic.
Hill's interest in Southeast Georgia remains a priority, even after a career move from Georgia Southern University to Wichita State. Screven County Chamber of Commerce sponsored a breakfast meeting at the Cail Center in Sylvania where Hill outlined some of the causes for the region's current economic turmoil in addition to some strategies to help Sylvania recover. One of the leading causes of the slow move toward recovery after a "fairly severe hit to the manufacturing sector" is consumer behavior, Hill said.
In regards to holiday spending, for example, consumers have been thought to be non-rational, now they're described as irrational. The devastation of the finance sector in Atlanta and the textile industry, which Hill termed "the nail in the coffin," were also given as major factors affecting Georgia as a whole. He emphasized the "dark side of productivity" in which companies are producing more goods and services, but not creating jobs.
According to Hill, the face of the job market is evolving.
"The full-time employee will not exist in our moving forward," Hill said. "Instead, we will see more contractors or temporary workers."
In the Screven/Sylvania community, he suggested a focus on creating policy protecting the temporary worker with regards to job stability and long-term retirement.
"Moving forward into 2011, labor expectations are pretty weak," Hill said, "however, there are still ways and opportunities for the community to grow."
He suggested to the group the concept of "on-shoring" as one such opportunity. Companies who moved manufacturing overseas because they thought it would be cheaper are now looking at moving back. With some work on the part of state and local governments, companies may be willing to move back to smaller communities because the labor force they are looking for is ready and available. Hill said by adopting aggressive policies and being savvy on the on-shoring concept, Sylvania could position itself to be one of the communities that does well.
Hill also suggested developing a high-end housing market, attracting commuters from the surrounding cities, like Augusta, Statesboro and Savannah.
"The labor flows between those communities," he said, "could actually strengthen some components of the services sector within this county and may actually turn it around."
Also in attendance on Tuesday was Georgia House Rep. Jon Burns. At the close of the meeting, Rep. Burns agreed that Screven County is uniquely situated, with many organizations coming together to support growth.
"Promoting a positive message - that's what you have to do to distinguish yourself from other communities - to bring jobs here," he said.