Assessment evaluates Albany's potential and issues

Tuesday, a city assessment was delivered to the Economic Development Commission

You hear people talk about Albany having a lot of crime and poverty, but an economic consulting firm says Albany also has a lot to offer.

Some strengths Robert Pittman with Janus Economics says Albany can build on includes the quality of place and life, transportation, higher education and the downtown area. Pittman says he is impressed with what is being done in Downtown Albany and says it has "good bones."

"A good downtown makes a positive impression on an executive or consultant looking at a community as a place to locate a business," says Pittman. "If you didn't have a good downtown I would say don't worry about it but you've got, as I said, good bones, and I think it'd be a real asset not only for consultants and companies looking at you but just for the community in general."

Pittman says downtown development and economic development go hand-in-hand. He says there are still blighted areas to work on but those areas also have infrastructure that could bring more business and even industry.

One way the business location consulting group completes assessments is by touring the city and also by listening to what people have to say about the area.

"If we here it once it's a rumor, if we hear it twice it's an issue, if we hear it three times it's a concern," he says. "One thing we heard about the labor force is that the skills of your current labor force are a bit dated."

The consultant says Albany has a strong manufacturing force, given the city's past thriving manufacturing industries, but he says the skills are dated.

"That doesn't mean give up on manufacturing. That means you have to target advanced manufacturing because the rest is gone; it's gone overseas and it's never coming back. so in order to attract that advanced skilled manufacturing you've got to have a skilled labor force," says Pittman.

He says people should not doubt Albany's potential, debunking many of the comments Albany citizens present.

"Don't let anyone tell you that because you're not on I-75 you can't grow, you can't attract businesses. That's not true. You won't get an auto plant but you could easily get some distribution warehousing, and as a matter of fact I actually recommended some of that," says Pittman.

EDC Chairman Jay Smith says many of the ideas presented by Pittman, including those about industry, are some the commission has wanted to develop.

"The industries that we have been targeting for the most part are those industries that he identified that we need to be pursuing," says Smith.

Some weaknesses Pittman says Albany has includes the image and perception of the city, recent large company closures, and socioeconomic issues such as educational attainment, poverty and teen pregnancy.

In terms of leadership, Pittman says the city needs to work on its race relations and engaged leaders.

To help grow the strengths and repair the weaknesses of the Good Life City, Pittman says the city needs to develop a long-term plan that looks nearly 15 years ahead and then find smaller goals to achieve the ultimate picture.

"I think that it challenges us to look ahead and do those things. It's certainly something that as a board we need to talk about, discuss and make some plans to go forward with," says Smith. "It's going to cause us to look beyond what we had been looking at."