The Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday it has hired an Ohio economic development veteran to help the city and surrounding region create more jobs from existing companies and recruit new employers.
Bill Murphy, 45, who now is assistant city manager and economic development director in Piqua, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, is expected to start work in Columbus by late January.
He takes the job of executive vice president of economic development at the chamber, replacing Becca Hardin, who left the organization in late July. She landed at West Point, Ga.-based Batson-Cook, a large general contractor, taking the position of vice president of business development in September.
Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Gaymon said Murphy had “a demonstrated experience in economic development,” having worked in the larger metro areas of Cincinnati and Dayton during his career.
“There seemed to be a lot of synergy, and he had, obviously, experience in both the public and private sector, which we found very interesting,” Gaymon said.
Murphy’s expertise includes finding industry suitable for clustering together, Gaymon said, while also being able to generate grant money for industrial park development. His work has involved both domestic and international recruitment, he said.
“We were very interested in that because we’ve been talking about renewing our strategic plan and looking at what markets we’re maybe not as focused on as we need to be,” said Gaymon, noting Murphy also will work closely with The Valley Partnership, a regional development agency, just as Hardin had done.
Hardin helped recruit South Korean automaker Kia Motors to West Point, along with several auto part suppliers, generating several thousand jobs in the area. Automated teller machine manufacturer NCR, which in 2009 announced its relocation from Dayton to the Atlanta area, with an assembly plant in Columbus and a commitment of about 850 jobs, also was among her accomplishments.
The search for Hardin’s successor had an initial 33 applicants, Gaymon said, with that number eventually narrowed to 10 and then seven before online Skype interviews were held by a chamber advisory committee. The top three were invited to Columbus for one-on-one meetings, with Murphy being offered the job this week.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Murphy said the Columbus chamber’s 5-star national accreditation caught his attention, while the fact that the city helped lure NCR away from Dayton also put the local area on his radar screen.
“Clearly, the big opportunity is going to be getting out and meeting with our existing companies and better understanding what their challenges and opportunities are,” Murphy said. “Those in my profession know that about 80 percent of new investments in capital — whether that’s human, machinery or facilities — comes from your existing companies.”
The Columbus metropolitan statistical area is approaching a population of 300,000, while the city draws from a regional population of about 500,000. Dayton, meanwhile, has an MSA topping 800,000, with Piqua at about 21,000 residents and Miami County, in which it is situated, with about 125,000 people.
During his visit to Columbus several weeks ago, Murphy said he came away impressed by the city’s downtown and whitewater rafting course, while also realizing the “incredible assets” the city has in employers such as Fort Benning and Aflac.
He plans to meet with Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and other city and community leaders to get a feel for what is needed to build on the momentum the city and the region already has in growth and development.
“I was just going through some of the numbers over the past six or seven years now, and the amount of new capital investment in that Valley Partnership region is impressive for any community,” he said. “Certainly, I think there’s a lot more opportunities headed their way.”
Murphy said he eventually plans to bring his elderly parents with him as he relocates to the warmer climate afforded by Columbus in the coming weeks. They also have family members residing in Gainesville, Fla.
Murphy was born in Middletown, Ohio, between Dayton and Cincinnati. He has bachelor’s (political science/international affairs) and master’s (public administration) degrees from Wright State University in Dayton.
He has also worked for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the City of Middletown, the City of Fairburn, the Dayton Regional Development Alliance, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and Dayton Power and Light.