“In terms of measuring a good performance, every community is very, very different,” said Jamie Gilbert, director of Paulding Economic Development.
And despite starting in 2011 with relatively few tools compared to other parts of Georgia, he has recruited a number of new industries, ranging from envelope maker Envelope Superstore to bottling equipment manufacturer Ronchi.
Gilbert said he established three goals when the agency began operations in 2011, including creation of a county brand, “Destination Paulding, Arrival Time Now”; making more industrial land available countywide; and putting together incentive packages for new companies including expansion of state-supported opportunity zones.
“If you look at where we came from, we’re meeting a lot of the goals,” Gilbert said.
The Dallas and Hiram city governments, Paulding County government and the Paulding Chamber of Commerce joined forces to establish Paulding Economic Development in early 2011. They then hired Gilbert, who was in the midst of a successful run as the development director for the city of Douglasville, to fill the then-new position that recruits new industrial employers for Paulding.
At the time, the county had few industrial parks and had not actively sought out such employers, he recalled.
However, in his time in Paulding, he worked with local governments and the county Industrial Building Authority to establish new industrial parks and provide more incentives to make the county more competitive.
He recruited Ronchi, an Italian company, to relocate its U.S. headquarters and operations from New Jersey to Paulding. The operation will provide administrative, sales, service and manufacturing support to the company’s U.S. customers.
Interroll, a Switzerland-based company, was recruited by Gilbert to the new Paulding Commerce Park in Hiram. The company is the world’s largest supplier of conveyor systems, and is nearing completion of its new $10 million manufacturing/showroom facility which will employ 100. The company selected Paulding over competing locations in metro Atlanta, Indiana, North Carolina and Canada, Gilbert said.
In April, he recruited Certified DEF’s Southeast operation to Dallas Industrial Park. The operation, which will employ 30, distributes diesel exhaust fluid to travel plazas and automotive stores throughout the Southeast.
Roy E. Blackston, operations manager for Certified DEF, said Gilbert works hard and “is committed to doing all he can to make Paulding County a great place to locate your business.”
“He also provides ‘service after the sale,’ making sure that once you come here, you want to stay here,” Blackston said.
Gilbert said he works to take care of a company’s needs after it locates in Paulding so it will feel comfortable in the community. For example, Gilbert said his agency helped Ronchi find suppliers, locate a building and receive needed permits.
“We really have become an extension of the company to help them navigate Paulding County and the state of Georgia and find the resources available to help them,” he said.
As a result, Gilbert’s agency has helped establish a “confidence in the business community” for its services, he said.
“We have the confidence and we have the trust -- that’s what we’ve earned from the companies we’ve worked with,” he said. “If we tell you we’re going to do something, we’ll do it, and we’ll find a way to get it done.”
Gilbert, 46, learned his trade through 21 years of experience in business recruitment in three states, beginning in the Baltimore, Md., area in the mid- and late 1990s.
He moved south in 2000 and led development efforts in three cities in fast-growing central South Carolina for almost a decade.
In 2009, he moved west to lead recruitment efforts for the city of Douglasville’s reactivated development authority. In two years, he helped attract companies which totaled 300 new jobs and a $300 million investment, including Medline Industries, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Mitchell’s Specialized Fabrication and Ross Group, he said.
In early 2011, he took on the challenge of managing industrial recruitment efforts for fast-growing but industry-poor Paulding County.
He said business-friendly city and county government leaders and the Industrial Building Authority have worked hard to give him the tools to recruit companies like Ronchi from Italy and Interroll from Switzerland, including development of Paulding Commerce Park.
He admitted the companies he has recruited have produced comparatively few jobs – but that will change over time, he said.
“I want the job numbers to be higher because we have to create those jobs here for our residents so that they spend less time driving out of the county to work,” Gilbert said.
However, such companies’ trust in Paulding’s efforts could lead to more companies wanting to call the county its home, he said.
“We have two, well-respected international companies that believe in Paulding County,” he said. “You’re going to see the landscape in this county change. It’s not going to be quick but it’s going to be incremental.
“These projects are going to give us the ability to bring in more industry,” Gilbert said. “What you’re seeing is Paulding County making a name for itself, becoming a place of interest for other businesses who want to expand their businesses.”
Other companies Gilbert recruited or helped expand in Paulding include:
• Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Haddad, a leading supplier of mobile makeup, hair and wardrobe units to the film industry.
• Envelope Superstore, a longtime printing and envelope manufacturing firm, which chose Paulding over three other metro counties. It will produce 40 jobs.
• The expansion of Japanese automotive supplier MGI, resulting in a capital investment of $9.5 million and 30 new jobs.