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New director pushes Columbia County development

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 11:57 AM
Last updated 6:12 PM
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Masters Week is a busy time for business development, as demonstrated by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s regular stops to the Augusta National Golf Club for its annual Red Carpet Tour.

One of the faces greeting those tour guests this week is Columbia County’s new Development Authority director. Though Robbie Bennett started just three weeks ago, he’s no newbie: He previously served as a project manager for the Development Authority of Richmond County.

That experience was a plus in Bennett landing the job, said Columbia County Development Authority Board Chairman Mark Wills.

“We were fortunate to find somebody locally who has the qualifications for what we needed,” Wills said. “Along with that, he’s fully familiar and has worked the Red Carpet Tour and knows exactly what goes on.”

In addition to networking during Masters Week with representatives of some of Columbia County’s existing industries, Bennett is showcasing Columbia County to visitors with the help of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

That’s the biggest difference in his old job and his new role, he said.

“With Columbia County, we’re partnering with the CVB with our house, hosting the guests and that sort of thing, bringing in some consultants and existing industry and helping promote Columbia County.”

The house is a rented residence the agencies use for guests brought in for the Masters. It’s an effective tool for helping to market Columbia County, Bennett said.

“We have great opportunities, great sites, great locations where we can put an industrial prospect,” he said. “We have great developments and property owners where we can put a retail development.... It’s setting the groundwork for future projects.”

Shifting from selling Augusta to selling the region from a Columbia County perspective has been seamless, even during the hectic Masters week, Bennett said, thanks to the Development Authority board.

“The board was well-organized and very thoughtful, with a lot of the pieces already in place,” he said. “Because they’ve been so supportive, it’s made the transition very easy, very smooth.”

Wills said he’s been impressed that Bennett has leveraged his existing contacts and made new ones in time to make the most of Masters Week.

“I like his energy,” Wills said. “He knows the job, and I think he knows what it takes to be successful. He’s got a real opportunity with Columbia County to bring that success to us.”


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