Mere weeks into his new position, Ron Maloney, the new vice president for economic development for Clay County, is convinced he’s the right man for the job and has found a good fit with Clay County and the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link.
“My colleagues say I have a knack for identifying prospects and making a case and proposal to them as to why they need to be in a certain place at a certain time, so I’m bringing that experience here,” he said. “I think that’s a great combination, when you combine it with this organization and this team. One thing you need to know about me is I’m a team player.
Maloney said the interview process that brought him to West Point was very much a two-way process.
“I was interviewing them, as well,” he said. “It has to be a good fit. He may not be a legend yet, but (Link CEO) Joe Max Higgins is on his way. He’s got a great reputation in our profession and I want to work with him. I think we’ll complement each other well.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Maloney, 48, has more than a decade of experience in economic development, including 10 years for a 10-county regional organization in Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Robin, have six children.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said of his move to Clay County. Maloney will have a satellite office at the Clay County Growth Alliance, although he’ll primarily work out of the Link office in Columbus. “I love the community; I love the people. There’s a real sense of commitment in every one I’ve met, both civic and community leadership, to see things happen and get things done. As a side note, I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a friendlier place.
“It’s very discernible the community has almost a hunger, a will to cooperate, a will to get things done,” he added. “It is certainly very discernible right now that that’s the mentality.”
The development of a new megasite in Clay County, akin to the Global Triangle Aerospace Park in Lowndes County, largely attracted Maloney to the job.
“This is a very unique site,” he said. “It’s one of the compelling reasons I came to this area. That site has a tremendous amount of electrical power available to it. Combine that with the excess water and sewer capacity available, along with the multi-modal capabilities. Sometimes you don’t find a great combination and that site is a great combination. There are certain industries and companies within industries. If they are going to put in a new operation, they are going to need that site.”
His aim is to sell and promote Clay County sites to site selectors and then to go directly to companies within select industries.
“Our immediate goals are to go out and start recruiting businesses for the megasite,” he explained. “But there are also a number of sites and businesses unoccupied in Clay County, so we need to find uses there. We have to spend some time trying to find the right re-adaptive user for some of the assets available there.
“The objective is the same and that is to recruit business. That’s not to say I don’t help existing businesses expand. Economic development is a balance of each. Right now, my primary focus is to recruit business. As we get the recruitment and the marketing promotion part rolling more, then I can spend more time helping local businesses, too.”
Maloney began work in the position Aug. 1 and, so far, has not identified any threats to his goals, except possibly one.
“I think the biggest obstacle is not an obstacle, but exists as potential for an obstacle,” he said, referring to a “lack of communication” which could present a challenge. “This is a much smaller community, so if you don’t communicate clearly and with intent, it could be disseminated incorrectly. It’s important the community embraces the vision we have and it is clearly communicated and everyone is always on the same page.”
“I’m about getting the job done. My focus is on what I’m doing. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m an easy-to-get-along-with guy. I just want to get the work done. I just want the community to be successful. I’m a pretty simple guy who takes economic development very seriously. I found a way to take my skills and my abilities and put them to best use.
“Economic development is not a job; it’s a passion.”