By Karen Hall
A city employee is doing a fantastic job, and deserves financial rewards for it, the Industrial Development Board agreed at its meeting Tuesday.
The employee is, of course, Greg Lowe, who recently signed up a new industry for Lewisburg's I-65 Commerce Park.
"Greg does not work for us," said IDB chairman Eddie Wiles. "He's a city employee, but we see his efforts. He's on the phone with me all during the month."
"Is Greg taken care of financially as best as he can be?" Wiles asked. "I'd like for us to consider sending a message to the (city) council of our support for Greg, and hope they would recognize him with some kind of bonus or raise."
Some of the complements for Lowe by IDB members included, "He's fishing all the time," "He put us out there," He's doing all he can do," "He hit the ground running," and "He knows: you ask him, he's got an answer."
"I couldn't agree with you more," said board member Dave Kennedy. "I don't understand why he isn't making at least as much as the last director."
"I'd like to be on record voicing our support," said Wiles. "We'd like to see some financial support as well."
Marshall County's executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, Mike Wiles, sometimes travels with Lowe to try and recruit businesses for the city and the county. He reported Lowe is "well respected. Other agencies work really well with him. He represents us well."
Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods said, "I know some council members are interested in seeing him have a reward and an incentive."
The motion IDB members unanimously approved was that Lowe be given "some type of financial reward or incentive."
The penalty for not rewarding Lowe was noted by Lewisburg Housing Authority Executive Director Ronald Robinson.
"If somebody doesn't do something, someone else will snatch him up," Robinson exclaimed.
Lowe had to sit quiet while praise was heaped on him. When it was his turn to speak, he said, "Thank you all very much. I like what I'm doing; I like who I work with. I expect success, and I think it's coming."
Then Lowe moved on to his report. He said he'd just found out Lewisburg had "made the cut" after a presentation he and Mike Wiles had done in Atlanta in April. At the time, they'd thought they were unsuccessful, so this was a pleasant surprise.
"We're in the race for five to seven projects," Lowe said, counting the food service company that will be up and running by this time next year.
Lowe presented findings from some of the seminars and conferences he has attended recently. Some of the points he highlighted were:
* Attracting a large company to your community is not the key to generating jobs. Getting something like Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant is every industrial developer's dream, but the reality is they must work constantly to attract new small businesses, and also to keep existing businesses thriving and growing. "The smaller companies are the ones that are growing out there," Lowe said.
* The technical skills gap between the people who will be retiring soon and those who are entering the workforce is tremendous. "Workforce development could be the most important thing we can do," Lowe said.
* "It's a different world out there." Business as usual won't work any more, and the old methods no longer apply. Economic developers need to be proactive, not reactive, and get accustomed to thinking "outside the box."
* "Don't be afraid to help the little guy," Lowe said, referring to new companies that may be manufacturing a new product for the first time. "It is a gamble," he said. Some of them may not survive even five or 10 years, but one might be the new Facebook.
In conclusion, Lowe told IDB members he was optimistic about the future.
"I think 2012 is going to be a better year," he said. "I think we're on the right track."