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City, county leaders discuss future of economic development

December 4, 2018--10:52 a.m.

Staff reports

Rome City and Floyd County Commissioners sat down Tuesday morning to discuss the future of economic development.

The county commission has already voted to move forward with the concept of a new model, with one possibility being a new authority comprised of three appointees from the county and three from the city.

However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Pete McDonald, Chair of Rome-Floyd County Development Authority presented another option.

“If a common plan is agreed to by the city and county to remove the marketing from the chamber, the Rome-Floyd Development Authority, which is our constitutional authority, is in a good position, with the legal powers we have, to hire the new staff and represent the city and county in terms of marketing,” he said.

McDonald, who also served on the study committee that looked at new economic development models, also suggested involving the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association in the process.

“They play at a critical role,” he said. “As the two commissions work through the next few days and weeks to come, considering what needs to be done, I encourage you to sit down with the leadership of GREIA and listen to their challenges. I would think today one of their biggest challenges is workforce. They simply cannot find the people with the skill sets and training they need. That’s not just the case in Rome and Floyd County, but across the nation.”

County Commissioner Wright Bagby, who also served on the study committee, said approving the concept of taking a new direction for industrial recruitment is only the first step.

Specifics would be worked out in the next phase.

Commissioner Scotty Hancock stated that he stands by his voted to proceed with a new concept, adding there were no clandestine meetings to blackball anyone and there is no animosity between city and county governments.

“Everyone wants to do what’s best,” he said.

The city commission has yet to vote on the issue, with some commissioners still having many questions.

City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson said she is not going to vote on what could be the most important issue during her three years on the commission without knowing all the facts and wanted to see the city and county come up with a comprehensive plan first.

Commissioner Evie McNiece, who chairs the city's finance committee, said she appreciates her fellow commissioners for asking important questions. 

While stating change is not a bad thing, she said it needs to be done right.

Mcneice said she wants to know if they are going to have the money to do what they say, or are they going to have to go back to the taxpayers, say they did not plan well and need a tax increase. 

She added that more time is needed to hash it out.

City Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who also served on the study committee wanted to stress that none of the discussions were meant to be a reflection on the chamber. In fact, he said Rome and Floyd County has one of the best chambers in the state, but added industrial recruitment needs to be a different model because the current model has become stale and we are currently not bringing in jobs.

Rome Mayor Jamie Doss said he underestimated the difficulty in the new model. 

“Transition has not been easy.” He said.

Doss believes it is imperative Rome and Floyd County work together. 

“Everyone wants what’s best but there are differences on how to achieve that goal,” he said.