Alpharetta Gets First Look at New Economic Development Plan
While federal officials can't seem to get an economic plan in place, Alpharetta's Planning Commission and City Council take a look tonight at the city's proposal.
In just a few hours, an economic development plan will be presented to both the Alpharetta Planning Commission and City Council in a rare joint meeting by those two bodies at City Hall.
The economic development plan has its roots in another city board–the Alpharetta Development Authority.
Councilman Mike Kennedy said he helped start four years ago when he was on the Development Authority.
Kennedy doesn't want this to gather dust like some other studies. Neither does he expect the city to embrace everything suggested by the consultants.
"That doesn't mean we are going to rubber stamp it and follow it blindly. But it's not going to sit on the shelf, either," he said.
Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard explained that an economic development plan is a road map; a guide from where the city is to where they want it to be.
"The thing about a road map, though, is that there is usually more than one way to get from point 'A' to point 'B.' While we will remain focused on basic goals and objectives, we have to remain flexible enough to respond to new opportunities and issues that may arise along the way," said Drinkard, who formerly was the city's economic development coordinator.
Since this final draft of the economic plan was released last week, most of City Council only got to see it over the weekend.
"So none of it's really been implemented in any substantial or meaningful way," Kennedy said.
A couple of low-hanging fruit that the city already was doing were included, such as getting Westside Parkway's final section opened as quickly as possible and pursuing a technical college for the old Milton High School site.
The city center development is another part of the economic plan.
"That's something that we were going to do, assuming the bond referendum passes in November," Kennedy said.
Nothing in the plan has been approved or rejected at this point. The City Council will take the suggestions in the economic plan and try to get them implemented, he said.
The next step will be for the City Council to formally accept the economic development plan, probably in September, Kennedy said.
Not having an economic development coordinator in place can be a good thing, he said.
"The timing on that actually works out pretty well, even though we've been looking for someone for a few months," Kennedy said.
Having a new plan, a new economic development coordinator, at least two new council members and a new mayor coming on board in a few months will allow the city to "reboot, take a fresh look at everything."
Drinkard said that the city's economic development progress has not been affected by the vacancy, because it hasn't been open that long.
"What has been affected is our ability to be “on the street” on a daily basis meeting with existing businesses and helping them grow; forging and building relationships with those who have already invested in our community," he said.
Kennedy said his reason for pushing for a new economic development plan is that when he ran for City Council there was a change in the country and the economy, and he didn't want Alpharetta to become complacent. "Not that they were."
"I think we have to change the way we think about not only this recruiting but retaining businesses that are already here," Kennedy said.
There's only so much a community can do to control what happens with a Fortune 500 company.
"But in terms of small business recruiting, I think we can have more of an impact there," he said.
Working with the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and its Progress Partners initiative–one of the economic development plan's suggestions–is the work of an economic development coordinator. But Kennedy said he is helping Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard maintain relationships with those groups until someone is hired.