“Happy birthday to the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance;

“Happy birthday to the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance;

“Happy birthday, GCEDA, happy birthday to you …”

That doesn’t really flow well off the lips when put into song form, however, local officials are gearing up to mark what they consider to be an important milestone in county history, the Fifth Anniversary of GCEDA, an organization that attempts to overcome local turf battles and instead focus on providing a unified effort to bring in new business to the county.

The group was formed in the fall of 2015 after perhaps the biggest meeting of elected leaders ever held in the county. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Greensboro City Council and the High Point City Council all crammed into a conference room for one giant meeting on the third-floor of the county-owned BB&T building in downtown Greensboro and the new organization was formed.

The five years of countywide cooperation will be celebrated at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the High Point Economic Development Corp., which will be held virtually on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Before GCEDA formed, the cities of Greensboro and High Point engaged in some pretty bitter battles for prospective businesses. Since the formation of the alliance – which includes elected officials, government staff leadership, business leaders and economic development officials who meet monthly – recruitment efforts have been much more copacetic between the two cities.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing though. To take one famous example, several years ago a GCEDA meeting was the site of blistering words from former High Point Mayor Bill Bencini, who let into Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips after the county commissioners didn’t offer financial support for High Point’s new downtown baseball stadium.

According to Bencini, despite some hiccups, the organization has been a win all around.

“The Guilford County Economic Development Alliance has become a huge success on a regional level and has won a lot of awards from all over the country,” the former High Point mayor and former member of the alliance said.

Bencini credited High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill with being a major force in the creation of the countywide organization. Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing was also a huge advocate at the time the group was formed.

Darlene Leonard, who’s served on the alliance and is a partner with High Point-based accounting firm Smith Leonard PLLC, said the move to make a unified effort five years ago was a very good one.

“They knew that we would be stronger together than we were apart,” Leonard said.

Over the last five years the group has created videos and publications meant to showcase the county’s advantages as a whole and it has worked well as a unit to bring new business to the area.

In its virtual meetings this summer, GCEDA has held a number of closed sessions, a practice that often precedes a new economic development announcement.