September 30, 2009

Jim Bethel: We must adapt to changing times

Why does an owner of a local carpet mill support the “Grow Greater Dalton” effort? My reasons are both business and personal.

Wearing my business hat, I know manufacturers who have established a long-term commitment to the Dalton community want the local economy to be vibrant. Although there are many business reasons that fuel this desire, two which stand out are: 1) Vibrant local business environments attract and retain a full spectrum of talented people. Talent at all levels is absolutely necessary to the long-term future of every business. 2) Vibrant local communities usually avoid the temptation of burdening their existing corporate citizens with disproportionate property taxes and other employment costs. In other words, doing business in a diverse vibrant economy makes for good business.

How will Grow Greater Dalton promote our area as a vibrant community? Dalton is well known as The Carpet Capital of the World. We take pride in the fact that Dalton is one of the few communities in the United States that still makes something. Driven by carpet, our local economy has become accustomed to more than 50 years of business expansion and personal opportunity. These opportunities came in the form of jobs in the mills and through the prosperity of support activities. But times change. Today, Dalton is faced with a mature carpet industry that should continue to be a strong building block of our local economy. Yet, even with an improving national economy, the days of significant carpet-related expansion is over. While some carpet mills will expand, the total industry employment will decline. The majority of local leadership understands that without aggressive recruitment of new jobs, the economy of Dalton will decline.

Quite frankly, existing industry welcomes new and diversified manufacturing. We understand the importance of additional partners to the local business community. We understand the additional support opportunities that each new business partner creates: teachers, bankers, service mechanics, machine tool operators, health care professionals, etc. We understand the contribution that each new job opportunity makes to the quality of life in a community … and the effect that each new opportunity has in retaining and attracting people to greater Dalton. If we want to continue to enjoy the benefits of our 50-year economic expansion, we must all realize that economic times have changed. Grow Greater Dalton is a direct reflection of the changed economic environment and the necessary community response.

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