by Agnes Hagin
This fact has been affirmed by local leaders who admit it won’t be easy meeting all the goals recommended in a Community and Economic Development Assessment, provided by Georgia Power Company and prepared by Janus Economics.
Robert Pittman, Janus Economics, said following a presentation last Tuesday evening that that Polk has wonderful development potential with a great manufacturing base.
“Our report finds that diversifying your funding for economic development and developing a strategic plan will be what it takes to take this community to the next level,” he said. “People need to decide where they want to go as a county. If you have a good site for business and industry and you have an economic development plan, you will succeed. Polk has a lot of potential for job creation.”
President Eric McDonald, Development Authority of Polk County (DAPC), said that the community assessment is only the beginning.
“My biggest fear,” he said, “is that we will take the report, lay it on a shelf and take no action on the recommendations. The idea is to use it as a tool to begin a process of developing the strategic plan.”
DPAC Chairman Reed Freeman said there is almost nothing board members can do about changing the status of development authorities. “One idea is to have one authority but forever keep the three we now have since they are needed for legal purposes. Whether anyone will give up their turf is another issue.”
McDonald pointed out that Polk is now living off land developed 20 years ago. He focused on product shortage with the Cedartown North Business Park needing further development and that upgrades could enhance the available acreage in the 101 Industrial Park near Rockmart.
Included in the Community and Economic Development report for Polk County are:
Product strengths: Ex-urban location, transportation, utilities, existing strong manufacturing base, downtown redevelopment potential, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, available workforce and telecommunications.
Weaknesses to address: Lack of available development ready industrial land, lack of available industrial buildings, lack of a countywide sewer system, K-12 education, highway access and first impression, limited incentives compared with surrounding counties.
Recommendations: Open up Phase II of Cedartown North Business Park, develop a spec building, target quality of life improvements to make Polk more attractive to young professionals, address the lack of county sewer system as part of a strategic planning process, augment DAPC’s business retention expansion and improve the appearance of gateways into the county.
Leadership needs include cooperation and consolidation in economic development, DAPC board rotation, public/private partnership for economic development, more understanding of and consensus on economic development by county residents.
Recommendations include promoting expanded DAPC board participation and diversify funding sources, both public and private and increase communication and coordination of economic development among county and cities.
Noted is the fact that there is no shared vision and no long-term strategic plan for economic development.
Suggestions include commitment to undertake and complete a visioning and strategic planning process that is comprehensive and inclusive.
Target industries include manufacturing - aerospace, food, medical, plastic – and services that include back office, finance and insurance, warehousing and storage.
A marketing proposal includes building up the identity of the Development Authority, developing a strong web presence for DAPC, identify target audiences, develop strategic alliances to share costs and capacity, draft a marketing plan and develop a vision of the perfect Polk County.