ALBANY, Ga. -- Members of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission sang the praises Wednesday of the Albany City Commission's Long-Term Financial Planning Committee and its plan to use up to $30 million to incentivize economic development in the region.
EDC Vice President Justin Strickland said during the EDC's monthly board meeting that state economic development leaders had called the plan a "game-changer" that would move Albany and Dougherty County into a position of advantage when competing for business.
"Assuming the City Commission votes to use these funds as the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee is recommending, this gives our region a feather in the hat -- actually, more than one feather -- when it comes to recruiting businesses," EDC Board Chairman Jay Smith said. "This is not just about now, it's about long-term development."
Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem told the EDC board his office would work with the city and its LTFPC to establish criteria for use of the funds, which comprise one-third of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia credits returned to the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission. The funds were paid by MEAG members as a hedge against proposed deregulation.
City Manager James Taylor, who called the financial planning committee's proposed used of the money a "deal-closing fund," said its total value by 2017 should be somewhere between $20 million and $30 million.
"The City Commission and the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee deserve praise for thinking outside the box," Clem said. "Their proposal will give our community a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something special."
County Administrator Richard Crowdis also praised the City Commission for its plan and suggested the EDC send a letter commending the city for its "outstanding proposal."
Strickland said economic leaders in Atlanta have asked the EDC to give a presentation on how the organization will work with the city to use the funds as a recruitment tool.
"People all over the state are saying this proposal will put Albany on the map for (business) location consideration," Strickland said. "They're all telling me this sets our community apart."
Added Smith: "This proposal underlines the significance our City Commission puts on economic development. Their kind of thinking is the only way we'll grow our way out of this (recession)."
Smith also praised the development and initial meetings of community task forces that will work with the EDC in the areas of retention, recruitment and renewal.
"On the recruitment side, there was a lot of energy in the room," the EDC chair said. "If others were like that, we're in the right ballpark in this process."