As more and more companies turn toward advanced manufacturing and automation, Hart County, Georgia provides an opportunity for growth that is hard to match. The area’s primary benefit may appear to be its advantageous location. However, a closer look uncovers an aggressive commitment to creating and maintaining a growth-centric environment.
During the economic down turn of the late 2000s, many industries, particularly manufacturing, were faced with severe capital loss. As Hart’s local economy is built primarily on manufacturing and agriculture, the threat of economic turmoil was real. With great motivation and some forward thinking, Hart not only survived the recession, but thrived throughout it.
Partnerships with neighbouring communities and Georgia’s Department of Economic Development helped the county facilitate strategic infrastructure development. Despite the uncertainty of the national economic climate, Hart made the tough decision to continue investing in local business, and that decision has emerged as a clear success.
“When the worldwide economy was really feeling the hit in 2008 and 2009, though it may have seemed counter-intuitive to some folks, we were still investing heavily in Hart County to procure land and create infrastructure to plan for growth” explained Dwayne Dye, director of economic development at Hart County Industrial Building Authority.
When other areas pulled back, Hart pushed harder, with initiatives that included an expansion of the airport, education system and overall business infrastructure. One example of this was the county’s procurement and development of prime industrial land right off I-85. The land, which is now fully adapted to accommodate a range of businesses, continues to attract new and diverse companies to the regional economy.
Hart County’s commitment to fostering a pro-business environment has benefits for multinational firms and small businesses alike. “We try to assist all local businesses to the highest extent possible. We try to create opportunities for diversification.”
The community’s ongoing commitment to supporting small business endeavours is underpinned by unique tax incentives and a plethora of programs designed to give young businesses the tools to succeed. Working with experts at the state level, Hart provides the support necessary for companies to take root and prosper.
The county has emerged as a growing hub of industrial development in the last ten years. Hart County’s increase in industry is the result of a combination of factors, but the county’s location is undeniably a major attraction for growing businesses. “Our geographic location is a significant asset and it has been recognised by a range of industries. It’s an undeniable asset.”
The state economy of Georgia has seen substantial growth in recent years, and the corridor in which Hart is located is one of the fastest growing in the entire country. With a robust infrastructure underpinned by a long history in the agricultural and the automotive sectors, Hart County’s industrial footprint is evolving. The Hart County Industrial Building Authority is a key player in the county’s development.
Located along the historic I-85, and home to a rail line that connects to the vast national network, Hart has become a centre for industries seeking accessibility. The county’s location on the highway opens up the entire southeast, as nearly every other major city is merely a day’s drive away.
In addition to ground accessibility, Hart County is near national and international airports and two major shipping ports only ninety miles northeast of Atlanta. It is also in close proximity to Greenville and Spartanburg, SC. and Charlotte, NC. Hart maintains a small-town feel but has big city opportunity.
Hart County’s highly-skilled workforce is award winning, literally. “The thing that really helps Hart County, when it comes to recruiting and bringing in advanced manufacturing, is the fact that we continue to spend so much of our resources and our time and attention on workforce development.”
Georgia’s Work Keys assessment program is a nationally acclaimed initiative that is increasing the employability and competencies of workforces by integrating standardised assessment and training. Hart County was one of the first communities in Georgia to achieve a Work Ready Community of Excellence certification and continues to utilize Work Keys to benefit expanding companies.
Hart adopted an integrative approach towards education and skills training, founded on a standardised parameter of achievement. As a result, businesses entering Hart come with an awareness of the prospective employees skill set and of the high standard of training they have received. Essentially, this type of standardization serves to prove that the workforce in Hart can, and will, rise to the occasion.
Although the new comprehensive education and training programs are an essential component of Hart’s workforce development, the county’s reputation for excellent human capital is a longstanding legacy. Hart County has a history of manufacturing. The available workforce is not only educated, but also experienced in a multitude of manufacturing processes.
Hart currently has a diverse manufacturing footprint that ranges from FDA-regulated medical devices to automotive components, metal fabrication, textiles, robotic or CNC controlled equipment and everything in between. Hart’s existing workforce has hands-on knowledge of what it takes to make any manufacturing endeavour run. In an industry increasingly turning to advanced processes, an education is only as good as its practical application. In Hart, the mix of knowledge and experience is second to none.
Creating growth takes effort and infrastructure, but creating international attention requires a different level of talent. It is no coincidence that, although Hart County is in a relatively rural area of Georgia, its industries have an international flavour.
Fenner Dunlop, Bosal and Textron are growing in the region, and Hart has become a hot spot for the most innovative manufacturing firms in the world. With a large pool of qualified staff and a high level of accessibility, Hart County’s assets continue to attract companies from around the world.
The county has taken a unique approach both in terms of its workforce development and infrastructure to support the development of international industries in the region.
“When international businesses come through, we really support them. They want to understand the workforce qualifications, and what Hart County has done to prepare our workforce really makes a big difference. This certification helps international firms understand and calibrate the capabilities and potential level of workforce in the area,” said Dye.
Transport accessibility is a highlight that has attracted both domestic and international companies to Hart. In addition to ground access, Hart County is near national and international airports, and two major shipping ports. European companies have been particularly compelled by this feature as these routes ultimately open up the potential of the greater U.S. market.
The rural Georgian county at the birthplace of the Savannah River has grown to be a leader, and the world is taking notice. Hart has become a top competitor in the quest for industrial development, proving that growth is not only possible, but inevitable with the right approach.