As the world's best golfers compete in Augusta for the coveted green jacket, Columbia County development and tourism officials will be working toward economic victories.
During Masters Week, the Development Authority of Columbia County and the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau are entertaining heavy hitters in the site selection and tourism industries, making connections they hope might bring high-paying jobs and events to the county.
Development Authority Executive Director Zack Daffin said his agency and the visitors bureau have teamed up to house state economic development officials, business executives and trade show organizers at a residence in Jones Creek subdivision while they are in the area for the Masters.
Between practice rounds and tournament play, county leaders will entertain the guests and tell them about the amenities and benefits of doing business in the county.
"(This year) site consultants are our primary focus, because they are the ones who, typically, companies come to for assistance in the site selection process," Daffin said. He said one consultant invited this year placed the county as a candidate for a large distribution center last year.
Also of particular interest are high-technology jobs and developers of master-planned retirement communities, Daffin said.
Executives will hear from the leaders of companies such as Deere & Co. and Club Car about what the county has to offer, including its superior school system and quality work force, Daffin said.
"We're taking this week and using it with a fairly broad brush," he said. "One of the things you hope to accomplish is to get more people familiar with your product."
Visitors bureau Executive Director Beda Johnson said her focus will be on recreational sports groups, meeting and trade show planners and some professional fishing tournament organizers.
"Obviously, we think of the (Bassmaster) Elite Series Tournament as (the county's own) Masters Week, but this is also a very good draw to show off," she said.
Because the trips for many of the business leaders are paid for by their companies, the county's costs are kept low, Johnson said. Daffin said the development authority budgeted about $10,000 for the week, and Johnson said her bureau is spending about the same.
Both the development authority and the visitors bureau will also take part in Augusta Showcase and the state's Red Carpet Tour of Georgia. Daffin said the level of exposure the county receives for the price is a bargain.
"It really is money very well spent," he said.
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