The subject of businesses coming into our city has been a topic in elections and in between now for many years. I can only report what I saw, took part in, and what I suggest.
As everyone should know, we have been in a "down economy" for at least three years. Businesses cannot find the capital or borrow from banks, so nothing happens unless they have substantial amounts of their own.
Many persons have a mistaken idea about what units of government can do to attract and/or keep existing enterprises. A small business can have millions in revenues and hire hundreds of employees.
Many persons point to our downtown area as something that beckons to be filled with thriving businesses that folks want. Often cited are such businesses there and elsewhere, like nice restaurants such as the ones in Hiram and along the East-West Connector.
Restaurants are a risky business for individuals. Most of those located within the city fail—especially the local ones—therefore chain restaurants are the most desirable. However, from their standpoint, they already have locations about 5 miles from Powder Springs.
Getting back to the downtown area, many things have been done to improve the public parts of that area. Several years ago, a "street scape" was completed—period lighting, new sidewalks, traffic "calming devices” and a new traffic light. This cost about $500,000.
Also, the city holds a very successful Fourth of July event that regularly attracts about 10,000 persons. There have been other attempts to draw attention to the area.
I will say boldly that it is not the city's duty to support a failing business, which many have been and will continue. Some of the buildings have been vacant for years because the owners will not fix them up and charge too much for rent or purchase.
People also say that we have old and unattractive shopping centers. They cry for revitalization.
Then there are areas whereby the owners of the property wanted them rezoned and suggested all kinds of attractive and needed businesses that could move in.
However, acres and acres of this land sits idle. The owners simply wanted to rezone the property to increase the value for the future. They basically lied when they provided information about what it would be.
I usually voted "no" to these rezonings, unless they provided solid information and were set to take out permits the next day.
We do have a mechanism that few persons, including the mayor and council, have much information about. There is an authority called the Development Authority of Powder Springs. It has been in existence for at least 15 years.
Back when, it was set up to receive federal grant money for development within a certain geographical area. The authority is supposed to have between five and seven city residents. Note I said city residents.
At last count, there was $90,000 in the bank that this non-working authority has. The last time it was active was the year 2000, when yours truly got them to contribute $10,000 for the establishment of a city website.
Since then, the authority has done nothing. They need members to do business.
Before I left, I suggested that it was unlikely that we could find seven people who would have to go for special training, remain on the authority for some time, and also be able to devote time to this difficult task.
Therefore, the city should look into dissolving the authority, place the money in a special line item, and contract out to a specialist who could help obtain certain types of businesses that would work well with what we have. I suggest service companies that do not need lots of room and could fit into available property.
Perhaps this might not be the best use of the money, but it sure beats just letting it sit there when a clear need is present.
I guess the issue of economic development will always bubble up, but it is like the weather, "everyone talks about it but nobody can do a thing about it".