Officials: Heart and Souls tour a success

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Judging by comments and contacts made by participants in a state economic development tour, city officials feel confident that efforts to make their Albany stop the best on the tour may have been successful.

The Georgia Cities' Foundation's Heart and Souls Tour rolled into town Wednesday afternoon, carrying nearly 60 developers, economic development officials and others.

Billed as one of the single best opportunities to get developers from outside of Albany involved in downtown revitalization efforts, James Taylor, the interim head of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, said he believes their efforts to pitch the city to participants were well received.

"You know I went down to Thomasville with them after they left here, and they were still talking about the reception they received here," Taylor said. "And that's what we wanted. A memorable experience. Because memorable experiences are ones that will get them back."

Taylor said at least one of the developers met with a local property owner while they were in town and discussed various available properties.

Others spoke of potential design elements and future developments, he said.

While in Albany, tour participants were serenaded by a chorus when they stepped off the bus, were treated to a show at the Thronateeska Heritage Museum's planetarium, and tours of the Flint RiverQuarium and the Civil Rights Institute.

Taylor said the group was also presented with a packet of information about Albany, including its strategic plan and other pertinent development information.

One of the people on the tour singing the praises of Albany was Priscilla Carter, a local businesswoman from Sylvester who, along with her husband Fred, runs a construction company.

"It's been a very warm welcome," she said, as she and her husband strolled through the RiverQuarium. "I'm glad Albany is on this tour because there is so much potential. We have rental properties and have done a lot of work with buildings in Sylvester, and once they can get a residential component downtown, I see good things happening."

Kirby Glaze, who works with the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Georgia Municipal Association's efforts on downtown revitalization, said that Albany has changed a lot in just a very few months.

Glaze, who helped make Thomasville's downtown area what it is today, testified at former downtown manager Don Buie's trial for fraud and said that things have turned abruptly from when he was called to the stand.

"That was a dark period," Glaze said. "But since then, there has been a spark, an energy that has come into your leadership here to get things done and get them done right."

Glaze has returned to Albany to assist Taylor and the ADICA board with efforts to develop a comprehensive vision for downtown.