Originally created 05/23/00

Group names new director



The Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. has a new executive director.

Robert Cooks, 33, of Stone Mountain, Ga., was introduced to members of the nonprofit economic development board Monday afternoon. He told them he's anxious to get started.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come to Augusta to start the economic engine and increase the pace of the engine," Mr. Cooks told board members.

Mr. Cooks was flanked by his wife, Sara, and the couple's 18-month-old daughter, Dallas.

"Normally in an organization like this, you don't start out with any capital. You start out with a mission and a vision," Mr. Cooks said. "Fortunately, we'll be able to leverage dollars and impact a large area right away."

Mr. Cooks spent the past five years managing a community redevelopment loan and investment fund for the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.

His achievements include increasing the agency's loan portfolio from $3.7 million to $7 million.

A Delaware State University graduate, Mr. Cooks also attended the Federal Reserve of San Francisco's National Community Development Lending School. He also holds certifications from the Neighborhood Reinvestment Training Institute and the National Development Council.

Mr. Cook's previous experience includes a stint as a development loan officer for the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority.

That experience and education, Augusta officials say, makes Mr. Cooks the perfect choice to be executive director.

Although he has accepted the job and is expected to start in mid-July, Mr. Cooks has yet to agree to a contract with the board. Those negotiations are expected to be completed soon.

The position had been filled on an interim basis by former Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney. Mr. DeVaney, who withdrew his application for the permanent position earlier this month, will stay on until Mr. Cooks starts.

Created last August from the defunct Augusta Housing Homestead, Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. is a nonprofit economic development agency.

The board, composed of area bankers, state lawmakers and local businessmen, is charged with redeveloping Augusta's low-income neighborhoods and improving the area's economic base with projects that make the city more attractive to businesses and tourists.

Part of the board's responsibility will be to disperse $10 million in state economic development money.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.