Demming Bass, the Chamber’s chief operating officer, delivered the presentation while flanked by Chamber CEO David Connell and Chairman Tony Britton.
Bass said the proposed 501(c)3 being formed to promote economic development would be staffed by the Chamber’s economic development staff. In addition, the Chamber would provide the group space in which to locate and help with its fundraising. Bass said it would largely be funded by the private sector and through federal and state grants.
However, “the most successful programs are true public/private partnerships where the public sector does invest, so this is something that is going to be open to any of our cities and county and school systems,” Bass said. “If they see something specific in the plan that they’d like to invest in, we would more than welcome that. However, this is led by the private sector.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin was not in attendance during the presentation, but he is on record as opposing the use of city funds going to the EDGE program because Marietta has its own economic development department. Marietta Board of Education members recently announced that they shared Tumlin’s position.
After the meeting, all of the council members rejected the idea of giving EDGE city funds, with the exception of Van Pearlberg, who will soon resign his seat to run for a Cobb Superior Court judgeship.
“I don’t see how we can justify giving the EDGE money when we need it to support our own economic development department, basically,” Councilman Anthony Coleman said.
Council members Jim King and Johnny Sinclair said they were following the Mayor’s lead.
“I think they’ve got a hard job ahead of them,” Sinclair said. “If they can convince Mayor Tumlin to financially support the program, they’ve got a good chance. If not, it’s dead on arrival.”
Councilman Grif Chalfant said he hoped the Chamber/EDGE officials would not ask the city for money.
“We need every warm body we’ve got here, which means we’re not going to have anymore money to give out,” Chalfant said.
Councilwoman Annette Lewis said the city needs to spend its economic development money on the city’s economic development opportunities. Flipping through the presentation Chamber officials handed out about the proposal, Lewis said she saw nothing that addresses the needs of Marietta.
“It will say the Six Flags Corridor. It says South Cobb Drive Corridor. It says this, this,” Lewis said. “I didn’t see anything specific to Marietta. Right now, what I’m saying is why should we put our funds to redevelop Six Flags?”
Councilman Philip Goldstein said, “At this time I don’t believe we have the money that we can provide,” while Pearlberg said, “I’m going to have to study the issue a little more.”
Among those in the audience was Larry Wills of Marietta, who said he was interested to see the Chamber/EDGE presentation highlight the need to establish a land bank authority to acquire tax delinquent or blighted properties in support of redevelopment.
“Local governments can set up land banks,” Wills said. “I don’t know why you have to delegate this to another authority, and if Cobb County or the City of Marietta sets up a land bank, you’d have more citizen control of it.”
But Wills objected to the EDGE proposal, saying the whole purpose was to “get around home rule.”
“The citizen has no control over what these things do,” Wills said. “There’s no home rule over these entities. Every time they set up a quasi-government entity, it costs the tax payers money, and that’s one reason the cost of government has skyrocketed since the late 1990s.”