The Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance will soon be led by a new executive director.
The LMAEDA board selected Chad Odom last month and he will hit the ground running Aug. 10 learning the needs and hopes of the area. Odom has a game plan on how to grow the area and it involves listening to start with instead of developing grandiose ideas and plans from Texas.
“I have no concrete ideas yet,” Odom said. “I need to see what the community has in mind. I want to be an asset to the community. I don’t come in with any big idea that I’m going to do.
“My big ideas will be to help the community achieve its goals. I come in with the idea we are going to do the right planning with the right inputs from the stakeholders in the community so the work we do at the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance aligns with what the community’s mission is.”
LMAEDA board chair and Tallapoosa County commissioner T. C. Coley and the board of LMAEDA said Odom will meet people from the business community, industry, board members and elected officials his first few weeks. Coley’s idea is to then use Odom’s planning background to come up with a plan for all of the communities of the Lake Martin area.
“We call ourselves the Lake Martin area, but we have never sat back and looked at how do we connect all of the communities in a way that we are one community,” Coley said. “I believe he has the planning background that will allow us to look at the Lake Martin area not as a bunch of little communities that happen to be near the lake but as region connected by the lake and how to leverage that for growth and development.”
Coley and the LMAEDA are just fine taking a slower approach before great things happen. After all, it has been more than year since former LMAEDA executive director Don McClellan unexpectedly died.
“He will take some time to learn the community instead of saying he has the solution,” Coley said. “He is being very methodical. While I think it may take a little longer, you get a better result with a methodical plan. After that we will hit the ground running with a full strategic planning process where we plan to reach out to all of the communities and solicit some level of participation in putting that plan together.”
Odom said economic development is simple but the pieces of the puzzle and the picture is different because of the community.
“It’s really about creating a vibrant local economy at the end of the day,” Odom said. “If those jobs aren’t making the community better, what are doing? We have to take a look at what we have.
“With the amenities we have and the stuff on the horizon, the things happening with COVID-19 and civil unrest, people are looking at smaller places where they won’t have to shut down for a riot or for COVID-19. In rural places you can stay open longer if you play it smart. There are advantages to smaller places with this current culture shock we are going through.”
Odom has already picked up on a few things he believes can be leveraged.
“The real attractive thing is the inventory,” Odom said. “For such a small place, three industrial parks — four if you count the airport — there is a lot of vacant space to fill. It is a lot harder to attract without an inventory. I’m looking forward to working that inventory out with a site selection crew and see who we can land.”
Odom has been part of leading economic development in Wharton, Texas just outside of Houston after Hurricane Harvey flooded everything. He was with First Stop for International Business Services at the World Trade Center of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City.
“It was the front door to the State of Louisiana for the Katrina recovery effort,” Odom said. “I got to learn how to attract investment, how investments flow into the different incentives and products that are available to economic developers to get things done.”
Odom said the days of showing property and transportation to get an industry are gone.
“Economic development is a holistic process at this point,” Odom said. “People have to feel comfortable where their money is going to go. In this day and age no one is throwing money down on a piece of cheap land just because it is cheap piece of land next to the railroad.
“They want to know the workforce is there. If you want the good jobs, you have got to be able to convince them that their senior level people will be happy there so they can put in higher paying jobs.”
Odom said this is where Lake Martin and the rest of the communities of the area come into play. It was attracted Odom and his wife during a visit even before an offer came from the LMAEDA board.
“The community is beautiful,” Odom said. “We got to see the town and the properties around and the lake. We just felt comfortable there. My wife did which really surprised me. We like it where we are just fine. We thought it was a good move. That was before the job offer came.
We couldn’t be more excited to come and join y’all.”
Coley said it’s impressive Odom is bringing an extra generation to the community, in addition to his Angie and two children.
“His parents are moving with him too,” Coley said. “It says something about his commitment to us.”
Odom’s vast experience and education in economic development, planning and more will be valuable in growing the region.
“Chad has experience from the international environment partly because of his time with the International Trade Center in New Orleans,” Coley said. “He has owned small businesses which allows him to relate better to business owners and the public because he understands how to meet a payroll.
“He has all coursework for economic development certification,” Coley said. “He just has to sit for the test. He also has certification in how to put together funding for economic development projects.”
Coley said having a background in industry recruitment and funding deals will be a great thing for LMAEDA.
“That’s is a game changer,” Coley said. “When you understand what it takes to recruit a company but also understand how to put together the funding package that changes what you can offer how you can offer it.
“It takes a small area like the Tallapoosa and Coosa counties and it helps level the playing field.
His planning background — that is something we have not had. I think he can help us put the tools into place to execute a plan to grow the area.”