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Retreat seeks answers on development
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The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce’s annual community leadership retreat gets under way bright and early Thursday morning, with an eye toward development in the county.
“I’m looking forward to the retreat,” said Chamber President and Effingham School Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “This is an important event for the community.”
Among the topics to be discussed Thursday on the retreat’s first day are industrial development, commercial development and building development, with each sector getting from 45 minutes to an hour. A large block in the afternoon, two and a half hours, is being reserved for downtown developments and Main Street improvements.
Shearouse said the focus this year is what can be done to make Effingham more attractive to businesses and giving them a place to invest their resources.
“I think that’s important for everyone, for several reasons,” he said. “One, of course, is the revenue generated through sales tax dollars, which helps the school system, helps the county, helps the cities.”
The 2010 Census numbers should be coming out soon, Shearouse pointed out, and with those new population figures, planning for more expected growth needs to take place.
“Our county is going to continue to grow — there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We see that even in times where the economy has slowed, Effingham County pushes forward. We see continued growth at the ports. We’ve got to make those plans so that as Effingham County continues to change and grow, we have the proper procedures in place. 
“We’re not only going to welcome growth but have controlled growth and growth that is good for the county and good for everyone who lives here. We want this to be a desirable place to live, and we think that can be accomplished.”
As school superintendent, Shearouse helps devise the five-year plans for the schools so they can map out their needs for new buildings. Shearouse knows it’s harder for private businesses to look that far ahead, especially in the current economic climate.
“Businesses have been through difficult times the last couple of years. It’s sometimes difficult to see beyond,” he said. “All indications are that we will continue to grow and thrive and we want to make sure we are ready for those improvements and changes that are going to be made.”
The retreat, at St. Simons Island’s The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, wraps up Friday morning with three hours of coming up with action plans on the theme. There are about 50 participants in the retreat so far.
“We should have a great turnout,” said Tess Moore, executive director of the Chamber.
While finding ways to make Effingham a place for businesses and people to come and spend their money is the theme of the retreat, there’s another result Shearouse wishes to see.
“The most important thing to get out of the Chamber retreat is all entities working together,” he said. “We can do so much more if everyone will join together for the betterment of the county.”