Smith tapped to lead EDC

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The former chairan of the board of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce was elected by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission at its meeting Wednesday to take the helm of the organization.

Jay Smith of Georgia Power Co. was nominated Wednesday by Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis. The nomination, seconded by Albany City Commissioner Christopher Pike, was unanimously approved by the board.

Smith will fill the void left by former chairman Bobby McKinney, whose term expired as an appointee of the chamber and who was not selected by the City Commission for its reappointment to the EDC board.

Smith, who served as chairman of the board for the chamber in 2008, said that the EDC and the community are poised to rebound from a harsh economic recession.

"We've done the right things," he said. "I think we know what to do going forward. If anybody can be successful, we're poised to be successful, and yeah, it'll depend on what comes in the future, but all indications are that conditions will improve and we hope to capitalize on that."

In other business, the EDC heard from Downtown Manager Aaron Blair, who shared the department's plans for downtown.

Pledging to market downtown "shamelessly," Blair said candidly that his biggest single obstacle is overcoming the perception that downtown is unsafe and unfit for business.

"We understand that you don't have to rebrand yourself completely, but we've started on a new campaign to establish @Dtown Albany ... something visual that people will start to associate with downtown," Blair said.

Blair said that the city and the downtown manager's office have a goal to increase events, business and development downtown by 25 percent this year and will be revisiting development plans in order to form a complete, comprehensive plan to serve as the foundation to move forward.

To accomplish that 25 percent goal, Blair said that his office plans to roll out an incentive plan to entice local business, grow partnerships throughout the community, to gauge interest in certain events and organizations and to develop a loft conversion program to begin assessing often discussed residential component.

"The goal is consistency," Blair said. "We're going to be consistent in what we say. We're going to be consistent in what we do, and we're going to follow through on what we say," Blair said. "We're going to slowly start to pick up more nighttime events and traffic."

That's already started with a New Year's event downtown that linked a concert at the State Theatre with a party at Cafe 230 and a fireworks show.

Blair said that downtown officials are looking at other cities such as Raleigh, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, as examples of urban development.