Trend Radar: September 2007

Going Pro: Downtown development agencies such as Main Street and Better Hometowns have long been viewed as beauty shops that organize flower plantings, place park benches and generally help spruce up a community’s central commercial districts. Denise Brinson is on a mission to expand public awareness of the professional economic development efforts of such organizations.

Brinson, immediate past president of the Georgia Downtown Association (GDA), is chairing a committee setting standards to award a Georgia Downtown Development Professional (GDDP) designation for qualified applicants. “We are working to raise awareness of downtown development as a true profession,” says Brinson, director of economic development for the city of Suwanee. “And to encourage the continuous improvement for downtown areas, as well as the professionals who serve those downtown areas.”

When Brinson and her fellow GDA members launched the project last year, they didn’t have a lot of history to work with. “We couldn’t find any other such designation program anywhere,” says Brinson. “There wasn’t a lot to go on. We think this will be the first in Georgia, and maybe the first in the country.” GDA received assistance with program design from the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute, the Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Municipal Association.

Brinson says it’s difficult to evaluate downtown professionals. “We come from a lot of different backgrounds,” she says. “So this program designation allows people who are looking for downtown professionals to evaluate them and use it as a kind of roadmap to quantify someone’s experience.”

The first examinations for the GDDP designations – there are three levels – will be offered in October during the annual Georgia Downtown Conference to be held in Columbus.

Unjamming Traffic?: Last summer, when Houston-based Lit-ton Loan Servicing, a mortgage servicing company, announced plans to move 170 employees to Henry County, economic developers saw an opportunity to cut outbound traffic on local roads. “We have a hard time right now with our streets; they are just packed,” says W.L. Carter, chairman of the Henry County Develop-ment Authority.

With nearly 70 percent of Henry County’s workforce of 60,381 driving out of the county to other jobs in the Atlanta area each morning, there was a growing strain on transportation corridors. “We think [Litton’s relocation] will help reduce commuter traffic out of the county,” Carter says.

Litton will invest $14 million and construct an 80,000-square-foot building in Henry County. The company specializes in keeping homeowners in their homes when facing foreclosure, according to a company profile provided by the Georgia De-partment of Economic development. Carter predicts quick growth in the number of Litton employees.

Better Young Drivers: Georgia public high schools and libraries will receive $2.2 million dollars to improve driver education programs by providing teens with greater access to computers and other tools.

The funding targets youngsters in rural areas and those who lack the financial resources to take driver’s ed. The grants aim to reduce accident rates among young drivers and are funded by the General Assembly under a 2005 act that calls for a 5 percent addition to all traffic violation fines to generate resources for the program.

Greener Georgia Grass: Another NFL team will be playing its home games on Georgia soil this fall. The Tennessee Titans’ LP Field will be covered in sod from Dodge County’s Heritage Turf Farms under a contract between the team and Sports Turf Solutions.

Heritage Turf is supplying 120,000 square feet of Georgia grass – actually it’s Tiftway 419 Bermuda grass – to the Titans’ home field; that’s just under 3 acres of greenery. The contract is Heritage Turf’s first NFL job; the company has provided sod for Augusta National Golf Club, Pinehurst Golf and Country Club and LSU’s Tiger Stadium.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features