Guests at a May 8 business and industry meeting fill up the café at Putnam County High School to hear about opportunities in the community for current and potential operations.

By Shannon Sneed
The Eatonton Messenger
May 24, 2018

Showcasing the many incentives Putnam County offers established, new and potential startup companies, the Putnam Development Authority hosted a business and industry meeting May 8 that attracted the attention of several business owners and entrepreneurs.

Nearly 40 people filled the tables at the Putnam County High School café as PDA Director Terry Schwindler introduced local resource agency representatives from the Department of Labor and WorkSource Georgia/Middle Georgia Consortium, as well as from local learning institutes Putnam County Charter School System and Central Georgia Technical College.

PCCSS Technology Director and CEO of the CTAE program, Keith Ellenberg was the first to speak, giving an excellent representation of the opportunity that the local school system provides through a unique form of educating its students by combined-subject experiential learning.

Touting the schools’ high scores, Ellenberg noted there is a 91 percent graduation rate at the high school with 98 percent of those graduates also completing a pathway producing a workforce ready to go to work in the county.

“They leave on graduation day with high school diplomas and associate degrees,” added YES Program manager, Katherine Reid.

Noting the flexibility administrators are given at PCCSS, Ellenberg said the curriculum could be modified to reflect the needs of local commerce.

“We had a business open to us and we had a pathway for that business within weeks,” he said. “With the resources we have at Putnam County, we will develop the workforce for you.”

Ellenberg noted that family farms that once dominated the community are becoming sparse and eliminating the need for feed and seed stores on every corner.

“The world has changed and education has to change with it,” he said.

Amy Varnam, of WorkSource Georgia/Middle Georgia Consortium, explained to some of the guests, which included businesses such as Label Source, Piedmont Water Company, and Fortis Engineering, that they assist businesses with workforce dollars.

The state’s federally funded employment and training system, WorkSource Georgia, reimburses companies up to 75 percent of their training wages for six months.

At the local level, the Workforce Division also provides funds and technical assistance for dislocated workers and low-income adults and youth.

“We do as much of the paperwork as possible,” said Varnam, “partnering with the DOL and GDEcD,”

Eatonton City Council Member Janie Reid spoke about being middle Georgia’s One-Stop operator.

Reid advised that the One-Stop center is a federally funded organization through the DOL that coordinates service delivery between partnering agencies.

“We push toward customer service needs,” said Reid. “We don’t put anybody off making sure you get that service that day because we don’t want you to leave frustrated.”

Aundrea Simmons, regional coordinator for GDOL, described some of the services her department offers such as tax incentives, regular business summits, and a website: employga.com (similar to LinkedIn), where employers have access to resumes.

Local college director, Carrie Dietrich, of CGTC, discussed the involvement the institute has in community workforce development explaining the partnership between the college and Putnam County High School.

Through the PCCSS College and Career Academy, CGTC is able to staff professors on site at the high school so that students do not have to leave the premises to take their college courses.

CGTC economic development project specialist, Clay Teague advised the college has programs available to help large and small companies with training needs and can also customized training program within a week to fit the needs of an employer.

Adult classes are free at CGTC.

Representatives noted the school offers 40 hours of free training for certification in ServSafe, entre­preneurs program, CPR, and forklift operator.

Before separating into groups for a tour of PCHS College and Career Academy and other innovative programs, Schwindler added that the PDA’s goal was to connect employer with employees to help everybody grow.

“The PDA can also help promote your work,” she said.

With constant updates on social media and the PDA website, Schwindler noted her department partners with several local and state organizations and has helped set up several job fairs for already established businesses in Putnam County.