Southern Tech

Comments by Senator Johnny Isakson in Gwinnett recently show in a small way how Georgia, though in dire economic straits, is also in pretty good shape in other ways.

Senator Isakson was speaking at the dedication of the new Life Sciences building at Gwinnett Tech last Wednesday. He told of being asked by a Congressman from Pennsylvania where Cook County, Georgia was.

Technical College System of GeorgiaThe senator told him it was in South Georgia, with Adel as the county seat, and also near a technical school. The senator wanted to know why the person was asking about Cook County?

“Well, we just lost a major bakery to Cook County,” the Pennsylvanian responded, then asked, “Is that where your technical college is located?”

Isakson then astounded the Pennsylvanian when he said, “Well, it’s one of 33 (now consolidated to 27) we have around the state.”

“What!” gasped the Pennsylvania. “We only have one technical college in our state.” That would be the Pennsylvania College of Technology, located in Williamsport. It was established in 1989, and enrolls 6,400 students.

Gwinnett Technical College alone enrolled 22,000 students annually in the last school year.

Statewide, the Technical College System of Georgia at one time had 33 technical schools (now colleges), but merged several administrations to 27 schools to cut costs. Altogether, these colleges have activities at 80 locations in Georgia. No Georgian is more than 30 minutes from a technical college campus.

The comparison of the number of adults that Georgia serves compared to Pennsylvania is astounding. Last year, the Georgia technical colleges enrolled a record 191,000 students! Compare that with much more populous state of Pennsylvania, which serves only 6,000 technical college students (2010 Pennsylvania population 12,734,905, versus Georgia’s 9,727,566.)

These extensive Georgia technical campuses are set up to offer up-to-date technical education for people seeking employment in the state. But there is more. If an industry is interested in coming into the area, these schools can tailor specific programs for these firms, through the technical colleges of Georgia overseeing the QuickStart program. This trains the workers who live nearby who will staff jobs in industry in Georgia.

There’s more to this story; it didn’t exactly play out as reported. The bakery in question, Martin’s Famous Pastry Shop, actually did not locate in Cook County, though it was one of its initial sites under consideration. It eventually put a plant with jobs for 100 people next door in Lowndes County at Valdosta. (Meanwhile, its headquarters and other location is in Chambersburg, PA)

Here’s another plus for Georgia: the plant moved to Valdosta mainly because of two reasons. First, Cook County had an inadequate airport for the Martin’s airplanes. Secondly, Lowndes County has a better water supply. That tells us that when seeking to attract industrial locations, each community must have their entire arsenal loaded, and cannot have a weak link, or else they will lose prospects to other communities. Cook lost to its neighbor, Lowndes, in this case.

The Pennsylvania politician should not be all that discouraged. At least the bakery kept both its headquarters and a plant in Chambersburg.

When seeking new industry, each state much provide a full slate of attractiveness. That bakery was ready to expand, and Lowndes County had the right mix, led by a good water system and airport, that attracted a new industry.

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Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.