Georgia Leaders Weigh in on This Week's 27th Annual Georgia Quail Hunt

K.K. Snyder

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

While business expansion and recruitment for Georgia is the overall goal of the annual Georgia Quail Hunt this week, the wooing is taking place among the wiregrass and pines of Southwest Georgia plantations.

Sponsored each year by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Allies, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, and Locate South Georgia, the event welcomed 18 business and industry recruitment and expansion prospects from around the world to Southwest Georgia. As the event kicked off Wednesday for the 27th year, and while guests are being treated to some of the finest quail hunting in the country, the prospects are also hearing about the benefits of investing in Georgia.

Throughout the week, event hosts and business and elected leaders are paired with guests looking to move or expand their companies to Georgia. It’s an opportunity to hear what it’s like to operate in the state and what benefits are on the table. Organizers say it’s a great return on investment.

“The Georgia Chamber has been a proud sponsor of the Georgia Quail Hunt since its inception,” said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, and a native of Fitzgerald.  “We have appreciated the support of our partners in continuing this valuable economic development event to attract and grow business in our state.”

A majority of prospects in town this week are already doing business in Georgia but are looking to expand, hopefully within the state, continued Clark. “There are others who can put their companies anywhere in the world they want to but are considering Georgia,” because of the tax climate and workforce, among other factors, he said.

Though confidentiality of the guests was carefully guarded, Clark did confirm that they represent several sectors, including manufacturing, distribution and agricultural companies. “This part of the state is really a sweet spot for us,” said Clark, noting that, for the second year, there are also consultants among the guests, gathering information for clients with potential to locate businesses in the region.

The event kicked off with a day of gun safety instruction and skeet shooting, as many participants have never hunted before. An evening reception for guests and local and state business leaders included Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

“This is an opportunity to showcase some of what Georgia has to offer, certainly the outdoors Georgia has to offer, especially in South Georgia with the hunting,” said Gov. Deal, adding that Georgia is a very diverse state in terms of what businesses might be looking for currently.

“With regard to the automobile industry, it’s a growing sector of the Georgia economy,” he continued, citing the recent decision by Mercedes-Benz USA to relocate its North American headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta, resulting in hundreds of new jobs for Georgia.

Gov. Deal added that Georgia is a diverse state in terms of the kinds of businesses located here. “We don’t try to play favorites to any one sector,” he said.

Employers who come to the region benefit from “a great tax environment, a great regulatory environment, and a responsive private sector and state and local governments,” added Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. He estimates that two-thirds to three-fourths of the companies he works with are looking to expand existing businesses.

“Economic development is a relationship business…We have great partners in Albany and Dougherty County and the surrounding area,” he continued. “This is an integrated approach.”

While the guests receive detailed information about doing business in this area of the state, the event is structured to also showcase the resources and people here, and to give visitors a taste of the quality of life they can expect as potential residents of Southwest Georgia.

“The Georgia Quail Hunt has proven to be one of the premier economic development events in the nation,” said Georgia Quail Hunt Chairman Walter M. “Sonny” Deriso Jr., of Atlantic Capital Bank. “Guests from across the nation and the world experience some of the best quail hunting in the country…They leave knowing that Georgia is a state that really cares about them and their companies.”

Since 1994, guests of the Georgia Quail Hunt have invested more than $2.5 billion and created more than 8,500 jobs as a result of corporate relocations or expansions. Corporate sponsors of this year’s event include Kia of Albany, MillerCoors and PowerSports Plus.

"Georgia is the number one state in the country in which to do business,” said Justin Strickland, president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. “Our existing industries know that, and through the Georgia Quail Hunt we’re able to share that story one-on-one with business executives from around the world. We’re especially proud to host these prospects, our state leaders and our economic development partners in Albany and Southwest Georgia.”

Guests will enjoy quail hunting on Thursday in Dougherty and neighboring counties, with everything wrapping up on Friday.