y all indications,
"Rich talent is the key for NCR to grow its innovation hub," says Bill Nuti, chairman and CEO of NCR Corporation, which is creating some 2,100 new jobs in the state via a corporate headquarters move to the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, expansion of its services and training capabilities in Peachtree City, near Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and a new ATM manufacturing plant in Columbus. "
It's not just companies; it's nations themselves who are noticing. In October, Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, chief of protocol of the
"This is a strong testament to Atlanta's reputation as an international leader in business, logistics, education and research," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, just a few weeks after attending the grand opening of Sony Ericsson's new North American headquarters in Atlanta. "I expect this event to lead directly to closer diplomatic and economic ties for
Those ties are growing stronger already, thanks to such institutions as the Georgia Institute of Technology, where a focus on economic development has been part of the university's mission since its founding in 1885. A recent study by the Southern Growth Policies Board found Georgia Tech's economic development program to be the most comprehensive of any American university.
"Most CEOs that I meet with are already very familiar with the reputation of our universities and they know that we can help companies not only with workers, but also R&D and ways to help them commercialize products," says Gov. Perdue in an interview. "
It's also home to Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, and to the economic development resources of Georgia Power, a Southern Company utility that is perennially among Site Selection's Top Utilities in Economic Development.
"A good candidate for 'best of breed' can be found at
World Within Reach
Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, says companies' work-force objectives today include a certain global savvy:
"They're looking for people who can work in a team environment in problem solving," he says. "They're also looking for multicultural assets. Since a lot of companies we recruit are international, they are looking for a work force that is culturally sensitive and aware, and has specific skill sets in terms of language, and understanding business environments in other countries."
Gant's team has analyzed both general and student populations in the region, and concluded that whether your company hails from Latin America, Asia or Europe, "you will be able to find workers who speak your language, understand your country and the
That holds true for the whole state, says Gov. Perdue:
"The teams at our 10 international offices are well-equipped to introduce companies in their regions to
"We formed an international team just to work with companies who'd never done FDI into the
Programs such as the award-winning and much-imitated Quick Start pave the way for incoming firms. But Quick Start staff are just as likely to be on an outgoing flight, if that's what it takes to help the client.
"Quick Start will send people all over the world to make sure we're capturing those best practices the company wants," says Green. NCR officials, for example, were astonished that Quick Start, with the ink still wet on the ATM plant agreement with
And in an economy focused on exports as an indicator of economic success, it's the export of expertise that may be Quick Start's own global signature:
"We've heard from international companies all over Georgia who've said they have taken those manuals and translated them, and used them at other locations," says Green. "It's hard to put a dollar amount on that."
Masino and Gant both cite the
"We made a pros-and-cons list that included Chicago and Columbus, and there were way more pros to moving to
"Although jobs are still important, they are no longer enough," says Kevin Stolarick, research director for the Martin Prosperity Institute at the
That description helps make an equally compelling case for such gems as
Strong digital content and media programs are also in force at
The Art of Innovation
"SEDA worked with The Creative Coast Alliance to support Meddin's start-up by introducing them to as many people and resources as we could – from potential clients to potential investors," said Lynn Pitts, senior vice president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority. "
Even the area's biggest industrial project has creative connections. Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas'Savannah Machinery Works project in Pooler expects to employ 90 by the end of 2010, 200 by the end of 2011 and ultimately 500 by 2016 in the manufacture of gas turbine combustors and components and, eventually, entire turbines to serve the power industry.
Larry Brown, manager of human resources for Savannah Machinery Works, says his growing cadre of multi-skilled professionals includes a mechanical engineer out of Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta near Atlanta; an advanced physics major from Morris Brown College in Atlanta who's part of the quality engineering group; and an industrial designer from SCAD. Just as impressive to Brown is the depth of experience he found among other welders, from exotic metals to programming welding robots.
Progress on the project has been swift enough that the company gave the go-ahead for phase two of the project a full six months earlier than expected.
"Quick Start did a tremendous job in helping us in the design of a welding evaluation process," says Brown, noting that the speed was even more dazzling for having unfolded between Thanksgiving 2009 and New Year's Day 2010. "We got with three different sourcing companies, and we estimate they went through 1,544 resumes to get us 193, culled down to 124, which we interviewed over 13 days to get to 34 to put through the welding evaluation to get to the first 20 we brought on board."
He describes the core of his employee base as "welding surgeons" who work with machinery he calls "eye-popping" in its sophistication. But on reflection, he says, "The more I think about it, what's really neat is the human capital we have here, more than the capital equipment. The biggest challenge we had is there aren't a whole lot of places in the world that have ever built things like we're building. These are jobs that were sent out of the country 25 years ago that we're resurrecting here."
A 37-year industry veteran, Brown has started up and turned around plants around the world. He calls
"When you consider that the Greater Savannah area has 132,000 people, we've been highly successful in finding the talent we need," he says. "I call it mining for diamonds." He says the behavioral questions that were part of the interview process for hourly workers were the same ones posed to executives, "and I've watched executives melt during them over the years. We have a work force that is fantastic, and the bulk of them are local."
Brown says the partnership with Quick Start has included adaptive leadership, forklift, motivation and conflict resolution training, "and if they don't have it off the shelf, they design it for me. The State of
College System Helps Companies and Communities Alike
A recent slew of projects from German automotive supplier Moeller Tech (Elberton), King's Hawaiian bread company (Oakwood), TIMCO Aviation Services and First Quality (Macon) and Mage Solar (Dublin) are among the newest roster entries at Quick Start, where the resources often surprise even the most well-traveled corporate site evaluators, who may have a limited conception of what "work-force training" can encompass based on experiences in other states.
Georgia Quick Start offers such tools as video-, computer- and Web-based modules, and its own studio and editing suite. It offers a range of services from pre-employment assessment to leadership, orientation, operations and productivity enhancement techniques such as kaizen, to courses on team building, communications and other soft skills -— skills much more in demand in an era of hybrid and virtual companies. In fact, Quick Start could be considered the starting blocks for nearly every prospect.
Almost any project will have Quick Start brought up in the conversation, because of the active, hand-in-hand partnership between the program and the state's technical college network. The agency's name is especially relevant today, says Commissioner Heidi Green.
"Companies used to have six to nine months of pad time," she says. Today, "they're waiting longer to make that investment, so they're needing that investment to come online more quickly. Quick Start has the ability to get those workers up and trained and working that line or answering that phone as quickly as possible. Time and efficiency is so important right now to companies. We have the assets to make that happen."
After the project announcement, when the cameras are turned off, is when Quick Start goes to work with the heavy lifting of process and organizational study. Quick Start staff go beyond rote functions to understand complex operations, such as cell cultures in the biotech arena, all in an effort to break things down into clear, teachable form.
At Kia's training center at its new manufacturing and assembly complex in West Point, Ga., Quick Start's advanced manufacturing team developed a stair-step training strategy moving from theoretical fundamentals such as electrical concepts to specific operational details such as programming electrical devices, then programming the PLC's that control robotics.
By integrating and structuring the training, Kia has thus been able to maximize the numbers of people being trained effectively and quickly. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia's senior vice president called Quick Start's training "the new global benchmark" for advanced automotive manufacturing.
Quick Start has pursued similar process-based projects with Dendreon, a biotech company located in Union City just to the south of Atlanta; with longtime Georgia employer and floor covering manufacturer Shaw Industries at a plant recommissioning in Calhoun; and with Efacec, which is now assembling electric power transformers in Effingham County, north of Savannah, with the help of animation produced by Quick Start that breaks down the assembly process.
The agency's training assistance in such areas as micro-welding also helped convince medical device maker Angiodynamics to bring more product lines to its plant in
Most importantly, Quick Start's support extends to small-town expansions as well as big-city blockbusters.
More Students, More Programs
Across the board, the schools are seeing increased enrollment, reflecting a nationwide trend. And they are both consolidating and expanding to meet company and work-force demands, including a new $10.3-million transportation, logistics and manufacturing center at the Acworth campus of Chattahoochee Technical College (CTC) north of
That school in particular saw a 17-percent rise in enrollment at its seven campuses in fall 2010, after undergoing a merger of three institutions in summer 2009. Its newest campus will open in early 2011 in
That's where the college recently renovated a former transmission shop adjacent to its campus to house a new intensive training course in aircraft structure for Lockheed. Successful students receive Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) certifications in safety and quality.
"We just graduated our first class from there, and only one did not get a job at Lockheed," says CTC spokesperson Rebecca Long of the new certification location. "We're now running two of those classes at the same time."
Across town, Nick Masino counts Gwinnett Tech among the flagship technical colleges in the state, so popular in the midst of a popular suburban county that it had to turn away "6,000 people in the health sciences," he says. Meanwhile, it's not turning away growth in such areas as digital game development, data center professional certification (
Why Work Ready Works
CTC, Gwinnett Tech and the state's other community and technical colleges serve as the gateway for the Georgia Work Ready program, which serves individuals, companies and communities with various skills certification programs based on the WorkKeys assessments developed by ACT, Inc. Sixteen new counties achieved the designation in September, not long after the agency launched Work Ready Connect, the state's new online employment marketplace.
Dr. Randall "Randy" Peters, newly installed this fall as president of the newly consolidated Southern Crescent Technical College south of
One, a lighting company in Cochran, immediately saw its employee turnover decline by a double-digit percentage. Then the Best Buy Southeast distribution center in
Peters says Heart of Georgia also worked with Quick Start to help Best Buy, recreating at the school's conference center the rack system used in a Best Buy warehouse. "They knew how to make it work the day they opened the doors," he says. "You can't overestimate the impact on the bottom line for a company."
Last but not least, says Peters, Parker Aerospace, which makes guidance assemblies for missiles in
The newest to locate in
While the Heart of Georgia region is focused on advanced manufacturing, Peters says his new institution's region may be pursuing a special focus on logistics. He says creating a Work Ready Region can be a catalyst.
"It allows us to bringin similar industries around a table: As soon as those people start having lunch together, rubbing elbows, hearing briefings, a synergy starts to take place. Once those plant managers see the value, and the HR managers start seeing the savings, it pretty much grows itself."
"We also offer a job profile, a job analysis system created by ACT as a counterpart to the assessments," says Chris Baucom, business development manager for the Governor's Office of Workforce Development. "We meet with job incumbents at companies, and learn how these foundational skills can apply to a specific job. This allows larger companies to use a content-validated pre-screening system for their employees. They love it."
Debra Lyons, director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, says Georgia Work Ready has certified over 150,000 people in two years, or some 12 percent of the national total. It gives some 7,000 assessments a month. More than 540 companies are listed on the Georgia Work Ready Web site as preferring or requiring the certificate as part of their hiring process.
"For the person who is Work Ready certified, we're giving them confidence," says
Work Ready-savvy operations in Georgia are telling their home offices about it, simultaneously helping the firm consider similar changes in other locations, and helping that firm see its Georgia site as a clear leader.
Bridging the Talent Gap for Companies
Work Ready has certainly done its work in Middle Georgia.
The end of summer brought multiple projects to the Macon-Bibb County region, with announcements by aerospace parts maker Make Manufacturing, TIMCO Aviation Services (130 jobs) and First Quality (150 jobs, $200 million investment). The First Quality expansion will feature a new $35-million diaper manufacturing plant, as well as a new wave of high-tech equipment.
"Their site here in
Topping says First Quality managers were able to demonstrate substantial savings to their bottom line as a result of Work Ready: Lower waste, higher productivity, and a shorter training cycle when they started new product lines or hired new people.
"All of their employees were Work Ready certified," he says, but even when some had a gold-level certification, "they all wanted to get the next level. The work force was actively involved in trying to improve their skills."
TIMCO has been no less pleased with the results it's seen.
"We are proud of the quality of services our team has delivered at our Macon, Georgia, location for the past twelve years, and our decision to invest in widebody capability will position Macon as a viable source for commercial aircraft maintenance for many years to come," said Kevin Carter, who along with Ron Utecht shares the CEO office for TIMCO.
Located on the campus of the
Topping says the quality of service TIMCO was seeing from its
As of the end of July, Topping says the
"Even in this tough economy, there are still skills and skill levels that people are having difficulty finding," says Topping. "Once we get further into the Work Ready program, it will help us quantify to prospects and existing industries what the work force looks like."
The area is also fortunate to have both
"Yesterday we had the dean of the engineering school at Mercer with us to talk to a prospect," says Topping. "The company's project team was led by a VP of engineering, so they were able to talk the same language."
Capitalizing on Knowledge
July 2010 saw the beginning of 12 months of intensive executive leadership development for 380 executives selected by NCR. Its provision was just another part of
"We put together a program with
The 35-campus University System of Georgia (USG) has supported company projects since 1996 with a unique program called ICAPP (Intellectual Capital Partnership Program). Though it has seen its funding cut in recent years, with some projects now funded directly through the Governor's office, its investments have shown a handsome return. A 2003 report showed more than a 12-to-1 return for the state on ICAPP investments. From FY 2003 to FY 2008, ICAPP leveraged nearly $16 million in private investment.
The program worked with NCR before, in 2002, when the company had a steady need to update its kiosk and POS software for clients. Through ICAPP, NCR donated that software to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and
"Students were getting great experience, they were being paid, and the school was getting revenue," says Terry Durden, assistant vice chancellor of the University System's Office of Economic Development.
ICAPP was born in
In response to bioscience industry requests, ICAPP funded the creation of three graduate programs in regulatory science and clinical trials at the
At the state's request, ICAPP also contributed to the attraction of the $70-million, 300-job Dendreon biotech complex in
In October, the USG received the Governor's Customer Service Agency/Institution of the Year Award.
High Quality, Low Cost
Life sciences is one of the area's target industries, in part because of the presence of MCG, 11 hospitals and two business incubators, says Walter Sprouse, executive director of the Development Authority of Augusta-Richmond County. Aviation, IT and data centers are other strong targets, as is the military (thanks to the presence of
"Seven months after we announced," says Sprouse, "I got a call from them and they said, 'Walter, we want you to know we're going to hire about another 200 people.' " The firm also said it was considering closing another facility and moving the work to Augusta, Sprouse says, because of the superior work force.
Work force quality and the lower cost of living (housing is 38 percent of the national average) also helped Kellogg decided to expand the former Keebler plant in Augusta for the second time in four years, this time with a $30-million, 225-job investment. "It's one of the most efficient plants in their entire system," says Sprouse.
Sprouse says that out of all the technical colleges in the state,
"I tell that to industrial prospects all the time," he says, "and you see their eyes light up."
The eyes of talented Georgians are lighting up too, thanks to the state's growing network of global connections.
"The most exciting thing about Georgia's prominence on the international stage is the ability for our homegrown talent to stay here, close to family, and have the same opportunities that are available anywhere," says Gov. Perdue. "The economic downturn notwithstanding, we are working hard to ensure we have those opportunities for our citizens to thrive. If they do well, so will we."
This Investment Profile of Georgia was prepared under the auspices of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. For more information, visit www.georgia.org.