RINCON — During her first few days as an employee of the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Alex Conarton’s “industriousness” was limited mostly to packing and moving boxes.
Three months later, however, she is progressing toward becoming the economic mover and shaker that wants to be.
Conarton, 22, is the IDA’s existing industry coordinator. Her focus includes working with local industries to ensure that they have access to and knowledge of available resources, programs and partnerships to help them succeed and grow.
“I’m still learning as I go,” Conarton said. “I’ve been full-time since May. We just try to be there for them in any way that we can — if they need new property or help filling their open positions.”
A graduate of Georgia Southern University and Locust Grove High School, Conarton chose her career path a few years ago.
“When I was 16, I decided that I wanted to work for the government and I had no idea what that really meant,” she said.
Conarton’s objective became clearer during a family trip to Washington, D.C., on her 20th birthday.
“We were driving around looking at all the different buildings and agencies, and I saw one in particular, the U.S. Agency for International Development, that got my attention,” Conarton said. “I thought, ‘That is a cool building. That is the one.’
“It looked like all the other buildings in Washington but there was something unique about it. It really stood out to me.”
Spurred by her architectural discovery, Conarton started reading about the U.S. Agency for International Development and its objectives.
“I looked into economic development and saw it as something that I could see myself doing and being happy about it,” she said.
Conarton learned about career possibilities in government through a pair of internships. One of them was in the office of Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar.
“That was a really a really good experience but that’s when I learned that the municipality side of it wasn’t really for me,” she said. “I liked all the behind-the-scenes stuff but it wasn’t for me.”
Conarton also gained valuable experience through internships at World Trade Center Savannah and the IDA.
“At the end of my senior year in my last semester, I spent half my time in Savannah and half my time in Effingham County,” she said.
Conarton’s quality work over a period of six months earned her a full-time IDA job upon her receipt of her degree in business administration. She joined CEO Brandt Herndon, Director of Economic Development and Existing Industry Jessica Hood and Office Manager Debbie Trowell.
“Once I got here, I didn’t know anything about international or regional economic development but I liked what it entailed and being here,” Conarton said. “This is a great team of people and the community of Effingham is great. It seems like everyone has a common goal, which is improving Effingham, growing it and making people’s lives better.”
Conarton believes working with a small staff has a major benefit for her.
“You are more hands-on with everything you do in this office,” she said. “I have the chance to learn a lot more.”
Hood said the organization skills Conarton displayed during her IDA internship were impressive.
“She’s on top of things and following up,” Hood said. “When she provided materials to me, they were pretty close to 100 percent (correct) and what I say to our interns is, ‘An 80 will get you by in college but 80 won’t get you very far here.’
“It’s 100 percent 100 percent of the time and I think Alex really embodies that mindset.”
Hood added that Conarton masters new things quickly.
“That’s really helpful to us,” she said.
The past few months have been tumultuous for the IDA. Conarton was deeply involved in its move from its longtime location in Springfield to the renovated Lodge at Grande View at 777 Old Augusta Road in Rincon.
“There has been a lot going on,” Conarton said.
Conarton has her own office now and has remained quite busy even though things have settled down a bit.
“I am really happy to be here and I plan on just taking this time to learn and do the best that I can for the community,” she said.
Conarton has already learned the most important thing about her job.
“Economic development does something good for people,” she said. “It changes their lives.”