Turning Bullish in 2012

By Virginia Gibbs
President & CEO – Fayette Chamber of Commerce

Happy 2012! There are some bright spots on the business horizon, and some hints of optimism that 2012 will begin to provide some much needed relief to this seemingly endless recession.

From where I sit at the chamber, I am seeing signs that make me bullish on the future of business in our state, our region and most importantly, our county. There are some compelling reasons to back this up, as the Georgia Department of Economic Development reports that Georgia’s businesses have received some very strong accolades in our favor in 2011. According to the November edition of SiteSelection, Georgia now ranks # 2 in the US for the “Best Business Climate” for new and existing business projects to locate. The Kauffman Foundation rates Georgia as tied with Nevada for the number one ranking in Entrepreneurial Activity. In fact, in August, Kauffman reported that Georgia leads the nation over the last decade for having the largest positive change in entrepreneurial activity. And in April, American Express OPEN touted our state as the one with the fastest growth of women owned businesses in the nation.

We are #2 in Workforce Training Leaders according to Business Facilities ’11, in great part, I would imagine, due to our acclaimed QuickStart Program and Georgia’s excellent network of Technical Colleges and Universities. And Georgia ranks in the top 3 in the US for the number of franchisors headquartered in Georgia (IFA, January, 2009). And if that’s not enough encouragement, Georgia is home to fourteen Fortune 500 companies and thirty-two Fortune 1000 companies.

A little closer to home, in July, the Brookings Institute rated Metro Atlanta in the Top 10 in the US for clean jobs, followed by an August nod by Entrepreneur Magazine showing Atlanta in the Top 10 Start-up Friendly Cities. The Small Business Scorecard just released a report saying Metro Atlanta small businesses are ahead of the nation in hiring and pay hikes in 2011.We rank 5th among major cities in foreign direct investment (Global Atlanta, 6/2011). And, no surprise to all the Facebook aficionados, Men’s Health magazine’s March, 2011 edition touted Atlanta as the #2 most socially networked city behind Washington, DC.

And right here in Fayette, we can see these same types of superlative ratings playing out in our community. Business Insider magazine recently named Fayette as #2 on its list of communities which could be the next Silicon Valley. The article looked at 20 “micropolitan” areas which have factors such as good broadband internet accessibility, a relatively large sized workforce, a vibrant local economy and a small college or university with a presence there. They argue that these are all prerequisites for having a “budding technology economy.”

Working to find how to best leverage this “next silicon valley” distinction, a small group of Fayette business, education and economic development professional are gathering at the chamber later this week to discuss how we can turn the stats into real new business opportunities and new jobs.

Leveraging another part of the business spectrum, if you’re interested in franchise businesses, at 10 a.m. on March 1, the Fayette Chamber will host the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and FranNet, who will give a two hour seminar on “Five Steps to Choosing a Winning Franchise.” The seminar is a “Lunch and Learn” and the fee is $19. Watch for more information from the chamber and the SBDC on how to register or visit www.frannet.com for more information.

Or, if you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur and want to leverage the “Entrepreneur Friendly Community” designation that Fayette received a few years ago, consider setting an appointment with one of the dedicated retired business executives who volunteers with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) each week. SCORE offers free business planning assistance and counseling to entrepreneurs, and have appointments each Friday at the Fayette Chamber offices on the Square in downtown Fayetteville. For more information or to schedule an appointment, sign up at www.scoreatlanta.org .

You can see why I’m excited about 2012. The reports are encouraging, and as we look at the variety of ways to jumpstart our economy, the 2012 theme at the chamber is “Positively Fayette.” I’m positively excited that a new year of opportunities has arrived. The Fayette Chamber looks forward to hosting a variety of events and programs to keep our economy growing and “Moving Fayette Forward” in a positive direction. We welcome you to join us and be part of our exciting programs this year. For more information about the chamber, visit www.FayetteChamber.org.