Re comments in Barry Paschal's July 8 column:
Paschal's column cited the downsizing of several Columbia County plants (and mentioned the rumored departure of another one, supposedly headed to Charlotte). The writer hoped that county economic development officials would stem this tide by joining the "promotional bandwagon" of touting the area's favorable living conditions following mention of the Evans community in the August edition of Family Circle magazine.
It is certainly appropriate for the newspaper to call upon local officials - and in particular, the county's development authority - to be proactive in addressing the economic issues that have been and will continue to be confronted by area businesses.
In response, newspaper readers and county residents should know that the development authority met recently (in May) to revise its strategic plan, one that now identifies specific items for the authority to work on over the next 24 months, given current economic challenges. These goals, which range from fostering entrepreneurial development to capitalizing on the opportunities afforded by the county's proximity to Fort Gordon and the Savannah River Site, are available for the public to view at the development authority's Web site, located at www.choosecolumbiacounty.com.
However, while the authority has specific tasks to perform over the next two years (including promotion of the area to select business markets), it is important to remember that, in the present economic climate, no community - Columbia County included - will remain immune from the effects of the national downturn. The existence of a completely "recession-proof" community is a fallacy. These days, every community is tied to the larger economy to a degree, although some communities may feel a lesser adverse impact than others.
The national economy - indeed, the global economy - has entered a period of re-structuring; as such, businesses will be required to make cost savings adjustments in the face of declining revenues. This may result in some firms downsizing, some firms consolidating (moving multiple locations to one site), and some firms closing local operations. Despite the best efforts of local officials, these business actions may be unavoidable, a necessary step for reaching the goal of any private sector entity: profit maximization.
Although the community wants businesses to be more than just money-makers - and many are key civic players, supporting via monetary and in-kind contributions the development of parks, churches and the like - companies exist to make money. That is the only way private sector firms survive, especially in the face of competitors with the same profit maximization goal.
For its part, the development authority and county officials will continue to provide technical assistance to firms weathering this economy, and yes, these local officials will continue to promote the area as a good place to do business. But, in the end, firms will do what firms need to do to survive, and occasionally, that will have dire consequences for the local community. In such cases, the task for economic development officials will be to minimize the impact to the greatest extent possible.
Troy Post, CEcD
Executive Director, Development Authority of Columbia County
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