Protecting local businesses and updating Internet resources are the way to advance the local economy, said the county's new economic development chief.
Newly-hired Columbia County Economic Development Director Zack Daffin spoke Saturday at the county Republican party's monthly meeting at Piccadilly on Washington Road.
Daffin said that one of his main goals is protecting existing industry, which he described as an invaluable resource for spurring economic growth.
"We need to make sure we always appreciate and support our existing industry," he said.
Daffin believes that examining the needs of existing industries often can lead to ideas of discovering new industries to meet those needs.
"We want to talk to existing industry and find out some of the products that they need and maybe we could develop some kind of program where we could nurture businesses that could produce those products locally," Daffin said.
Attracting new business to Columbia County will require the help of existing industry, but Daffin also plans to market the county through trade shows, business consultants and visiting prospective new businesses.
One of his immediate goals is to develop marketing tools and literature that will brand the county in a memorable way, similar to how people think of golf they think of Augusta.
"I think it would be fantastic down the road if we could invent something that brands Columbia County positively - something that, when you say whatever it is, you automatically think Columbia County," he said.
"I don't know what that is, but it is certainly something we need to think about. It will help us tremendously in the long run."
Attracting new business is a game of not being eliminated as a prospective site, Daffin said. One of the most important tools the county can have in avoiding being eliminated is a strong Web site.
"Economic development is shifting to the point where consultants and others are doing so much research online before they ever contact me," he said. "Our Web site has to be able to help them in their cutting-down process.Otherwise, we might get eliminated."
Daffin said he has received assurances from commissioners that the county Web site will be revamped to include his recommendations.
"Our Web site is going to play a very critical part," he said. "If you pull up Columbia County's Web site right now ... I think is a nice Web site, but there is nothing to reference economic development on the front page."
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