Rockdale County CEO Oz Nesbitt, Sr. Breaks Down the Top 3 Reasons Entrepreneurs are Flocking to the Area

Rockdale County in metro Atlanta may be the smallest county in Georgia, but it is an emerging giant in terms of business growth. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Oz Nesbitt, Sr., Chairman and CEO of Rockdale County. Nesbitt joins the show, to discuss how his leadership is putting Rockdale County on the map for small business growth and development.

Transcription: 

Mark Collier:
Welcome into The Playbook, Chairman Oz.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Well, good to be here with you, Mark. Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
All right. Listen, I know Rockdale County, as I said to my lead-in, may be one of the smallest counties, but you’re doing big things out in Rockdale County.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
We like to say that we’re rocking and rolling Rockdale County. We’ve got more things going on in economic development than in the last 30 years in our county. And yes, we are the second-smallest county in terms of landmass, but we are rocking and rolling. We’ve seen a very windfall of interest coming into Rockdale, and to the city of Conyers in terms of economic development from all across the region and across the country.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic. So share with me, what does economic development mean to Rockdale County from your perspective, Chairman?

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
And I really appreciate the way that you asked that question, what does it mean to Rockdale County? Our perspective is several things. Number one, we have a big, big focus on small business and small business development. Mark, as you know, America is built on the backs of small businesses and entrepreneurs. We’ve seen a very high increase in terms of entrepreneurs, people getting into their own businesses now, and that has really been birthed, I think, just as the big pandemic was just about to take place. More and more entrepreneurs were making their footprint throughout Rockdale County. And as we think about our small businesses, we understand in Rockdale that our county, our community moves and thrives off of what happens with our small business people. We’re always encouraging our residents to shop local, first give those local merchants an opportunity to earn and to win your business. So we put a lot of support from a government standpoint to makes sure that we help market, promote, and make sure that local citizens know what types of merchants they have available right here in their own backyard in Rockdale County.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
The flip side of that is how we attract industrial and manufacturing opportunities. We are a community who make things. We are the kind of community that make things. We have several manufacturing and industrial type companies throughout Rockdale County, and we want to make sure that those companies who are considering the eastern I-20 corridor, that they strongly consider Rockdale County.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense, Chairman. And I’ll tell you what, businesses are located there, and behind businesses are people. So what are the top three reasons people choose to live in Rockdale County?

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Number one, I’d say Rockdale County is truly, if not the safest, among the safest counties in the state. Georgia has, as you know, 159 counties. Rockdale County, I like to say, is the safest county in the state. Between the city police department in the city of Conyers and the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, we make sure that we keep things real tight when it comes to crime and making sure that the citizens and the people who work, live, and play in Rockdale County feel safe. You have to have a safe community.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Another thing that really attracts people to Rockdale County is our location. You’ve heard it before, location, location, location. We’re right there on I-20, the eastern I-20 corridor, but we’re only 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, 30 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. So it makes our location very premium in terms of the metro region. And then Highway 138 runs right through the heart of Rockdale County. It’ll take you straight down to the University of Georgia there in Athens. And we’re only an hour and a half from Augusta Georgia. So we’re in a great location, where we’re located there geographically.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
The other thing I’d say, quality education, quality of education, as well as affordable housing in Rockdale County. The days of being able to have an acre or two-acre or three-acre lot in terms of land with children and grandchildren, where pets and animals can run around and enjoy, those days are kind of few and far between throughout Metro Atlanta. In Rockdale County, we still have space availability. We still have affordable space based upon square footage. Quality education, a wonderful school system. We also have some private institutions located in Rockdale County as well that we’re very proud.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Well, listen, county government is very important to all counties. And so if you can share with me, how does Rockdale County government support local business and its entrepreneurs?

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
One of the things we’re very proud of in terms of supporting our local small businesses and entrepreneurs is that we feature a segment on our public relations department called Spotlight on Business. We actually send our PR department out into the community of Rockdale, the city of Conyers, and we find out what you’re doing, what type of goods, products, and services that you provide, and we feature you a full full-fledged television commercial on our government access channel Rockdale Channel 23. We try to promote and make sure that local residents know and understand what goods, what services and products, again, are right there in their own backyard. So that’s one of the ways that we try to make sure we promote those local businesses and entrepreneurs in Rockdale.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Well you know, me as a small business development consultant, one of the things I consult people on when they’re starting a business is, what makes you unique? What makes your product or service unique compared to the other competitive offerings in the marketplace? So I’d like to bring that back to Rockdale County. What is the most unique thing that sets Rockdale County apart from others?

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
One of the things that we’re so proud of in Rockdale County, our most valued asset other than people, is our water reservoir. We own and operate our own water reservoir, which means that we own and operate the water utility in Rockdale County. And there’s not a lot of counties or municipalities that can really say that. So we do have our own reservoir. We’ve had it since the mid ’90s. We are very protective about our water source, as you can imagine. But that’s what that’s a plus for us, because as an incentive for businesses considering Rockdale County, we’re able to do some negotiation and make sure that we can come to the table with something to offer them, to help attract them to coming into Rockdale County. And that’s a big deal when you’re trying to start up as a small business, a medium business, or if you’re a large manufacturer looking to come into a community, particularly if you’re that large manufacturer and you’re going to be using a lot of water. So that’s a big plus. One of the biggest assets in Rockdale is our own water reservoir.

Mark Collier:
Well, clean water is a big deal, man. In many areas and locales, they struggle with that. So that is a great strategic asset, then, that Rockdale County has.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
And we protect it.

Mark Collier:
All right. So for future business owners and developers who are seeking to coming to Rockdale County, detail me some of the top three advantages that developers and small businesses would experience by coming into and locating in Rockdale County.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
One of the benefits of coming to Rockdale County as an entrepreneur or a first-time small business owner or developer, you’re going to have… We are still just the right size as a county where you can get an intimate, up close and personal experience when you come into our planning and development department, when you’re getting a permit for your new business, or you’re trying to make sure that you’re properly zoned to place your business in a particular area of the county. We have staff that will work with you. Not only do we provide a checklist to make sure you have all of these items checked off of your list before you enter into an agreement with a lease or someone and you come and find out later that you’re in the wrong location.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
So personal approach, personal and quality customer service, a more intimate experience make… Because a lot of times entrepreneurs, small business owners, sometimes folks, they have a great idea, but they don’t know how to get started in terms of following local codes and ordinances. That’s where we come in. So we really try to make sure that the professionals that work in Rockdale County government offices, particularly in our planning and development office, take their time, work with people one-on-one, and give and provide that personal touch. We are not one of the bigger counties, so we are able to do that and really give you the time and attention to your project and your investment so that you can actually see your ROI.

Mark Collier:
So under your leadership, let’s kind of look into your crystal ball and look ahead. So what future initiatives are you considering that would help attract more businesses to Rockdale County? And what do you see in the future?

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
When I think about the days ahead for Rockdale County, the hottest thing that comes to my mind, number one, is infrastructure and transportation. When I think about infrastructure, we’ve been calling the storm water management department the star of the show in Rockdale County. And of course you’ve seen on television news, when there’s a major flood or major downpouring of rain, a lot of communities get flooded because of all the antiquated infrastructure that’s just not working or clogged up or whatever the case may be. Well, Rockdale County, we’ve got some issues in that area. So we’ve shined the spotlight on storm water management to make sure from an infrastructure standpoint that we are bringing the latest, greatest technology, the latest, greatest material and equipment to make sure that those waterways and streams can flow properly through our community and does not impact residents and businesses in a very negative way. When think about transportation, well, you shouldn’t work on the roadway and then have to go back next week and deal with the storm drain and all that. They should go hand in hand.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Making sure that we have good quality roads all throughout Rockdale County is very, very important, but it doesn’t stop there. We have a big focus on transit and mobility, getting people from the north side to the south side and from the south side to the north side, into all of those central locations, the courthouse, our major shopping districts and the local schools, as well as the local library. So transit and mobility is high on the radar with myself and my two colleagues, both commissioner Sherri Washington and commissioner Dr. Doreen Williams.

Mark Collier:
All right, well, fantastic. Oz Nesbitt, Chairman and CEO of Rockdale County, I want to thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to come in. And you’ve imparted some very good information and compelling reasons why businesses and developers should consider Rockdale County as their next stop.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Well, Mark, thank you for having us. And I encourage all of your viewers, all your listeners watching this broadcast, please come and consider Rockdale County. We’re rocking and rolling. We’re going to give you that personal touch. There’s nowhere else like Rockdale. I like to say it this way. There’s only two kinds of people, those that live in Rockdale County and those that wish they lived in Rockdale County.

Mark Collier:
I love it. All right, thank you very much, Chairman.

Oz Nesbitt, Sr.:
Thank you, Mark. Thank you so much.


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