Chris Dunlap has been on the job about a month as Randolph County’s new economic development authority director, which has been just enough time for him to shake some important hands and start building relationships with the people in the community.
“When you start these jobs to have to kind of introduce yourself to everybody, get acclimated to the community and kind of understand each city in the county,” Dunlap said. “They’re all wanting to move forward together, but they all have different goals, different things they want to recruit and do.”
Dunlap was hired early in May to replace long-time director Bryant Whaley, who departed to run the economic development efforts for the City of Prattville.
Dunlap didn’t have any direct ties to Randolph County prior to his hire, but his father Phillip has worked in economic development for the City of Auburn for nearly 40 years, so coming here is not exactly entering a foreign land for the 47 year old
“I looked at this region. I knew this region pretty good. Not the people, per se, but I knew the region,” he said. “I talked to Bryant a little bit as he was moving to Prattville. He said it would be a good opportunity here and had a good board. I knew Senator [Randy] Price. It’s about 45-50 minutes to Auburn, so I looked at it as a lot of potential to be able to piggy back off of the different committees and businesses from the counties around.”
He has a background in industrial development and says that area will initially be the focus of his efforts of bringing businesses and jobs to Randolph County.
“You look for partners from the outside to help try to get some capital investment, that can work with you,” he said. “We’re trying to talk to some people right now from out of Birmingham to come in and help us do some things. But most growth is done within the community, with industrial development.”
Particularly for rural communities like Randolph County, industrial development is about finding and/or building infrastructure for industries to set up camp within the county. Dunlap is already working to make sure the county is properly marketing its industrial sites and making sure those sites are ready to take on new businesses.
“That’s a partnership,” he said of creating agreements with new industrial partners. “You’re in a marriage with a company. That is the way I’ve always been taught. That is the wife you need to please so she doesn’t go anywhere else.”
That’s his area of expertise, but he says he will not limit himself and ignore other potential opportunities.
“At the end of the day it’s about creating jobs. And how we create jobs – by commercial, tourism, industrial development – it’s all the same. That is how I look at the main part of my job is to try to create jobs,” he said.
Dunlap has worked in commercial real estate as well as an early-career stint in broadcast radio. His most recent stop before coming to Randolph County was as the economic development director for the City of Clanton.
Since his arrival in May he has met with all four local mayors and the county commissioners, as well as members of the Wedowee Merchants Association and the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce in an effort to familiarize himself with people and the goals of the county.
He says he’s received a warm welcome wherever he has gone.
“I look at this place as a place that has a lot of potential for growth,” he said. “It takes a whole community to do this. My job is to see the vision of the whole community, each municipality and the county and working with the board, trying to facilitate that and support it and work with them to make their visions happen.”