Augusta’s lead economic development agency on Friday took the first step toward hiring a full-time employee focused on south Augusta.
Board members of the Development Authority of Richmond County unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Augusta Commission to create a position dedicated to revitalization – retail development in particular – in economically distressed areas of the county.
The memorandum, if approved by Augusta commissioners, would create a commission-funded position within the development authority that would receive direction from a six-member committee comprised of appointees from both government entities.
Development Authority Chairman Henry Ingram said the plan would enable the city to help improve underdeveloped regions without incurring major expenses by creating an organization from scratch.
“The important thing is we are creating something in an organization that is already up and running,” he said. “Our vision is to solicit and bring commercial and industrial entities to the area. That vision now just so happens to include retail.”
Hiring and firing would be at the discretion of the development authority, but the salary and title of the position has not been finalized. Those details would likely be worked out by The Chason Group, a Cartersville, Ga.-based executive search firm already helping fill two vacant positions at the development authority.
Headed by former Georgia Chamber of Commerce executive Tim Chason, the firm was hired earlier this year to find replacements for former project managers Scott Poag and Jonathan Davis, who resigned within a week of each other in March.
Poag is now an Augusta-based development director for an engineering firm in Athens, Ga.; Davis is the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s workforce development director.
Instead of filling the two vacant positions, Ingram said, the authority will fill three.
“Realistically, we would start with one (new position),” he said. “But that could expand over time.”
City and state officials, spurred by the near simultaneous closure of two grocery stores last year, launched an initiative to create a new government entity focused on revitalizing under-served areas – specifically south Augusta. When the concept of an ad hoc agency died from widespread lack of interest, the strategy shifted to embedding a geographically-focused position into an existing organization.
Ingram said the memorandum of understanding grew out of a meeting between himself, City Administrator Janice Jackson and Augusta commissioners Sammie Sias and Ben Hasan.
City Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, a member of the development authority who helped draft the memorandum, said the south Augusta-focused position would make regular reports to the yet-to-be-appointed six-member advisory committee. Kendrick and Sammie Sias, now a commissioner, pitched the idea of creating a quasi-governmental body to market the area to developers in 2008, essentially to do for south Augusta what the Downtown Development Authority does for the city core.
Aside from helping speed new development in the county’s southern portions, the position would let elected officials from those areas know what progress is being made.
“Most of the time, commissioners are the ones who receive the questions about why there is no development in our area,” Kendrick said. “This is a way for them to take the pulse of what is going on.”
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