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VALDOSTA-LOWNDES DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY CUTS RIBBON ON NEW OFFICE

Members of the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority cut the ribbon at 103 Roosevelt Wednesday morning, welcoming a fresh name in a new space where prospects are surrounded by a vibrant Valdosta community.

The new name, Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority, adopted at the board meeting July 15, more accurately reflects the overall scope of work in today’s marketplace. “We do much more than develop industrial parks and offer incentives,” explains Andrea Schruijer, executive director. “Fundamentally our operations are the same, but with a more comprehensive approach to economic development. We now have existing industry programs, which help retain our existing industries and provide opportunities for expansions, foreign direct investment and financial support and workforce opportunities,” she adds. “We take a proactive approach to business development by visiting location advisors and prospective companies, attending tradeshows and maintaining strong relationships at the state and federal levels.” 

The new location at 103 Roosevelt offers many advantages, says Schruijer and “one of them is its strategic location. There are many times when prospective companies visit us and may only be here an hour to discuss relocations or expansions. This building allows prospects to see that there is a lot of growth here in Valdosta, Georgia. From the VSU Health Sciences Center, SGMC expansions, new professional mixed-use office developments, middle school, parks and other quality of life aspects … all are very important for prospects to see when visiting a community.”

Mary Gooding, 2013-2014 board chair and Roy Copeland, past chair, agree. Our new location adjacent to all the recent expansion at South Georgia Medical Center and the new VSU Health Sciences Building showcases to visiting prospects the vibrancy of our community and its ever-expanding future,” notes Gooding. “An added advantage is the Authority will realize significant immediate savings on our annual operating budget in the new location.”

“This is a great thing for the Authority,” emphasizes Copeland, who was chair when the decision to move was made. “Ultimately, it saves the taxpayers money. Period.

 “Secondly,” Copeland continues, “the Authority needed a permanent home, one that speaks about what we are. This location is in a growing area surrounded by a park on the north, professional office development on the south, the health sciences building on the east. I don’t think we could have found a better location at a better time.”   

The Authority has leased their previous location for 15 years, and, after careful evaluation, the board voted to make an investment rather than continuing to rent. In addition, significant savings on the annual operating budget will be realized, reiterates Schruijer.

The need for a permanent home was first mentioned in the Board’s minutes in 2008. In early 2013, during Copeland’s chairmanship, the search came to fruition. “We pondered this for a number of years. We had the convergence of a willing board, an opportunity and exemplary timing. The board was very meticulous in its search. A building search committee was formed and five or six properties were considered,” explains Copeland.

“Ultimately, the decision came down to cost, and whether or not this was good for the taxpayers,” emphasizes Copeland. “With the $32-million health sciences development across the street, we feel a prudent decision was made,” says Copeland.

Gooding agrees. “An extensive search was conducted and we would have liked to relocate downtown, she explains. It simply wasn’t financially prudent, and 103 Roosevelt was the very best choice.”  Schruijer explains further, “Various locations were considered, including downtown, but since the Authority, as a public entity, is not eligible for tax credits, the downtown location was not feasible.”

In addition to financial parameters/good use of taxpayer dollars, the board criteria stipulated the location meet current office needs with room to grow; be in an area where prospects could see quality of life, growth and a vibrant community; and be in a central location between Northside and Highway 84, according to Schruijer.

Following the search, the decision of the board to purchase 103 Roosevelt Drive was unanimous, with board members Copeland, Gooding, Norman Bennett, Tom Call and Jerry Jennett all voting in favor of the location.

The new building, a house that was previously converted to office space for a bank, offers significant advantages to assist the authority in doing business.

In addition to renovated offices, the new location includes a 1250-square-foot addition for a much needed public meeting space.

“The larger community meeting space, added in the rear of the building, can accommodate more comfortably our citizens who wish to attend our meetings and better understand the work we do,” explains Gooding. The expanded meeting room will hold 49 people comfortably, and will accommodate lunch and learns, prospect conferences and other events in addition to regular meetings.

The new public space will also allow the Authority to host business events without seeking additional meeting space. The latest technology is another plus, as the space is outfitted with state of the art communication and audio-visual equipment.

Accessibility and appeal of the building is another asset. “Our new building combines a little South Georgia charm on the exterior with the latest in technology for presentations to prospects on the inside,” says Gooding. The location is conveniently located off Patterson and is easily accessible from both Oak Street and Patterson, points out Schruijer.

The new office has a welcoming front entrance to greet prospects. And the floor plan provides a workflow for team activity with a separate office workroom and space for storage.

The building meets current staffing requirements, with additional office space located on the second floor. Temporary office space is often requested in prospect proposals and the second floor space will meet this need as well, says Schruijer.

Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter and Valdosta Mayor John Gayle both had positive comments about the new location.

“I know the Development Authority's board and staff are excited about their new home. I am sure it will serve Lowndes County and her communities very well as they go about the business of recruiting and retaining business and industry into Lowndes County!” said Chairman Slaughter. “The Development Authority has done a great job of retaining and helping existing industries maintain a presence in Lowndes County and in most cases grow their industry in Lowndes County. The Development Authority has, during these tough economic times, worked very hard at recruiting industry while competing with every other community in the Southeast for these prospects!”

"We are fortunate to have the professional staff at the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority recruiting new and assisting existing industries with their technical and financial needs,” said Mayor Gayle.  “When our local businesses and industries succeed, we all benefit," I congratulate the Development Authority on their new location and appreciate their continued efforts in growing our city and region."

“We’re excited to welcome the public into our new space,” says Schruijer. The Authority will host the Chamber’s Business After Hours August 28.

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Andrea Schruijer, Executive Director

Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority
103 Roosevelt Drive
Valdosta, Georgia 31602
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