CONYERS -- The Rockdale Board of Commissioners was briefed on the status of an Atlanta Regional Commission study designed to be a road map for economic development for the metro area through 2040 and encouraged to make the plan a success.
The ARC's Rob LeBeau told commissioners at the Dec. 4 work session that the goal of the study was to unify local, regional and statewide stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors behind a vision for the area's economic future. Commission Chairman Richard Oden and Rockdale School System Superintendent Richard Autry served on the steering committee for the plan.
"More and more it is becoming evident that cooperation for regional economic development is really needed as an approach to sustain metropolitan areas and local governments from a economic development standpoint," said LeBeau.
A strong region ultimately benefits local governments within that region, he said.
The ARC's Plan 2040 is a regional comprehensive plan that will also serve as the region's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which is required every five years by the federal Economic Development Administration. Incorporating local governments in Plan 2040 makes it possible for those governments to apply for grants for projects that are consistent with the regional strategy, said LeBeau.
Plan 2040 involved taking inventory of existing economic development plans in the metro area, conducting a competitive study with other markets like Boston and Charlotte, N.C., and seeking public input. The plan defined four objectives for the region:
-- Creating an educated workforce by improving funding for public education at all levels, integrating best practices and new programs into classrooms throughout the region, preparing students for 21st century careers, and retaining the best and brightest graduates from the region's colleges and universities;
-- Building prosperous communities by supporting existing businesses, promoting the region, and investing in physical and social infrastructure;
-- Supporting innovation by attracting and nurturing startup enterprises, establishing Atlanta as a top five market for research and improving capital access and incentives for innovation; and
-- Ensuring the region is livable by developing neighborhoods, downtowns and activity centers that are attractive to current and future residents and preparing communities for the demands of an aging population.
LeBeau said a public comment period on the plan will continue through Dec. 17. The plan will then be sent to the Economic Development Administration for approval.
Once approved, a five-year implementation period will follow. That's where local government input will be needed, he said, and asked that commissioners consider how they could make the plan a reality.
"The plan is the easy part," said LeBeau. "Now it needs to be implemented. There are 55 different actions in (the plan). The ARC can do many of these, but the majority are beyond the scope of what the ARC can do."
Oden called the plan an "outstanding strategy."
"It's how Rockdale is going to go into the future," he said, and will be a key to the county receiving grant dollars.
Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said she was particularly interested in supporting existing businesses and industries. She said she was pleased that the county was selected by Hillphoenix as the location for its new consolidated facility. There are currently three Hillphoenix plants in Rockdale.
"We're trying to work so hard and spinning our wheels and recruiting new industries, when right here in our own back yards we have those opportunities before us," she said.
Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt echoed Van Ness's remarks.
"We want to continue to look outside of Rockdale County to lure in new business and create new revenue ... but we need to help those who are already here to grow and expand," he said.
To view the plan go to www.atlantaregional.com/local-government/economic-development. Public comments may be submitted at firstname.lastname@example.org.