A conversation with a WTCSav partner.
Development Authority of Bulloch County CEO Benjy Thompson
Tell us about Bulloch County.
By the numbers, Bulloch County is a large land mass (over 680 square miles, 8th largest in Georgia), approximately 55 miles from Savannah, and rural in character. In reality, Bulloch County is quite diverse. Perhaps the most important feature is the main campus of Georgia Southern University, home to more than 20,000 students. This makes Statesboro a true university town, blending a small town feel with amenities and resources found in more populous areas.
What kinds of services does the Development Authority of Bulloch County offer to local businesses?
The mission of the authority is “to expand economic opportunities in the Statesboro-Bulloch County area by growing, attracting, developing, and supporting new and existing business in our community.”
We do this primarily through the recruitment of large employers to our community (e.g. manufacturing, distribution, etc.), and support for expansions of large employers already located here. We also work closely with local partners (e.g., Bulloch County, City of Statesboro, Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber, Bulloch County Board of Education, Georgia Southern University, Ogeechee Technical College and others) to support economic development activities that impact the community. These activities include workforce development, community redevelopment, small business support, tourism, and many other areas of economic activity.
What makes Coastal Georgia a great location for businesses interested in expanding into the U.S.?
Coastal Georgia provides a great jumping off point for international business. The most obvious resource that our region offers is the Port of Savannah, and for good reason. Beyond the great success our Port has enjoyed over the past several years, the long term strategies of our Georgia Port Authority leadership makes international businesses comfortable that the Port will continue to grow, and will offer efficient and effective ways to succeed in the United States. In addition to the Port, the communities in Coastal Georgia offer all the factors necessary for success, including a skilled workforce, great transportation network, and shovel-ready industrial sites.
What makes Bulloch County unique?
Because of our situation as a university community, Statesboro-Bulloch County offers a great mix of the rural with a metro flavor. We have the benefit of a “vibe” that college towns enjoy, due to Georgia Southern University sports, arts, entertainment and venues. We also benefit from the large number of college students who demand services that are often found in larger communities. At the same time, Bulloch County offers a more rural lifestyle to those who prefer a more laid-back approach. To add to the attractiveness of our community, we’re just 50 minutes away from downtown Savannah, the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and the Port of Savannah.
Why do you love Coastal Georgia?
I love Coastal Georgia because it’s home to me, and now to my family. It’s important to note, however, that while I was born in the region, I chose to stay here to raise a family and start a career because the region supports it. Coastal Georgia is a wonderful place to call home, whether one is born here or chooses to live here. The natural beauty of the Georgia coast; the historic nature of Savannah, Brunswick and the islands; the feeling of cheering on the Georgia Southern Eagles; the beautiful solitude of paddling down the Ogeechee River– all of these types of things are available throughout our region. And, our regional economy supports the lifestyles that we enjoy due to our home here.
How long have you partnered with World Trade Center Savannah (WTCSav)?
I’ve been involved with WTCSav since the beginning, serving on the regional committee that provided input to the Savannah Economic Development Authority about the creation of WTCSav. The Development Authority of Bulloch County is one of the Founding Development Authorities of WTCSav.
Describe your experience with WTCSav.
Our experience with WTCSav has been outstanding. The support for local business considering international markets has benefitted our economy; WTCSav events have provided opportunities to meet with business leaders and government officials from around the world; and more recently, WTCSav has supported recruitment opportunities that will help our authority with its pursuit of foreign direct investment opportunities.
Do you have any specific examples of how WTCSav assisted in growing your organization?
Our recent recruitment trip to Germany is a great example of value provided by WTCSav to our Authority. Large business/industrial recruitment is a long game, requiring relationship building over extended periods of time and exposure to business people who may consider investing in a community. International recruitment can be particularly challenging, due to cost and time commitment, lack of familiarity of our community and other issues. The Germany trip allowed local development authorities to leverage WTCSav connections and the World Trade Center brand to engage business leaders in Germany in ways we could not have accomplished on our own. In addition, the regional nature of the visit provided a greater impact than pursuing these relationships as individual communities.
What advice do you have for companies that are considering expanding through global markets?
Companies considering international opportunities already have a better sense of the concerns involved than many of us. However, these companies need to know that WTCSav provides support and resources to address all of these concerns. WTCSav staff is customer-friendly and accessible. And, WTCSav can provide more than just support by introducing businesses to direct opportunities with international markets.
Logistics and Transportation
Number of Georgia Southern University students
More than 20,000
102 S. Main St.
Statesboro, GA, USA 31313