“When we talk about the economic future of Georgia, we can’t talk about that without talking about education,” said Hank Huckaby, a former UGA official who now serves as the chancellor over all 31 schools in the University System of Georgia.
He said having an educated work force is vital to attracting employers, and that the system is continuing to develop special programs for new careers. One example is a cybersecurity program at Georgia Regents University in cooperation with Fort Gordon and Israel. Another is specialized training for motion-picture technicians at a trio of Atlanta-area schools.
UGA opened an office in Atlanta a year ago devoted to economic development, and university President Jere Morehead told the new hires he has been pleased with it so far because economic development fits within the school’s mission.
The faculty is touring the state as a way to familiarize those new to Georgia and to help all of them understand the ties between academia and business.
“In the state of Georgia, you are now, if you haven’t been before, in the economic-development business,” said Gretchen Corbin, the commissioner of community affairs.
She explained that often in talking with industrial prospects the companies will need specialized information, requiring recruiters to seek advice from microbiologists, chemistry researchers and other professors whose specialty might seem more basic science than business.
“In addition to the great work you do inside the classroom, keep thinking how do you connect,” she told the tour group.
No other universities in Georgia conduct tours for new employees, and only a few in the country do it. The annual trips didn’t occur here for about five years because of the recent recession, but they were revived last year.
Morehead said he has never heard any complaints of the tour’s message diluting the emphasis on academics.
“We don’t want them to see UGA as isolated in Athens but to that we are out in the state,” he said.