Before he can encourage business and industry to build in Columbia County, Robbie Bennett first is building a few relationships.
Bennett took on his new role as the executive director of Columbia County’s Development Authority just three weeks ago, but he’s no newbie: He previously served as a project manager for the Development Authority of Richmond County.
This week, Bennett is taking advantage of Masters Week to showcase Columbia County to visitors, and he has the help of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau in that outreach effort.
That’s the biggest difference in his old job and his new role, he said.
“With Columbia County, we’re partnering with the CVB with our house, hosting the guests and that sort of thing, bringing in some consultants and existing industry and helping promote Columbia County.”
That house is a rented residence the agencies use for guests brought in for the Masters. It’s an effective tool for helping to market Columbia County to visitors, Bennett said.
“We have great opportunities, great sites, great locations where we can put an industrial prospect,” he said. “We have great developments and property owners where we can put a retail development.... It’s setting the groundwork for future projects.”
Shifting from selling Augusta to selling the region from a Columbia County perspective has been seamless, even during the hectic Masters week, Bennett said, thanks to the Development Authority board.
“The board was well-organized and very thoughtful, with a lot of the pieces already in place,” he said. “Because they’ve been so supportive, it’s made the transition very easy, very smooth.”
Development Authority Board Chairman Mark Wills said Bennett’s familiarity with the area was a plus for the board in hiring him, and that’s especially important during Masters Week.
“I like his energy,” Wills said. “He’ knows the job, and I think he knows what it takes to be successful. He’s got a real opportunity with Columbia County to bring that success to us.”
While he works this week selling Columbia County to representatives of the county’s existing industries and to visitors during the state Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Tour, Bennett said he hopes residents will take a cue from his “eternal optimism” to help in that pitch.
“Attitude is the No. 1 thing a community can do to help support our efforts,” he said. “When a prospect comes in, when the hundreds of CEOs and business owners and executives are in town for Masters Week, it’s important to promote a positive image.
“Overall, Columbia County is doing a great job with that.”