Economic development pact OK'd

PTC contracts with 'experts' at Fayette Co. Development Authority

To help existing local businesses expand, and also attract new business, Peachtree City is teaming up with the Fayette County Development Authority.

In return for the city’s $75,000 investment each of the next two years, FCDA will hire an employee to work on those goals and be the city’s “main point of contact for business inquiries,” according to the new contract approved by the Peachtree City Council Thursday night.

Tasks for the staffer include development of a business retention and expansion survey and the promotion of Peachtree City as a location for new business and industrial companies, according to a contract approved by the City Council Thursday night.

The Fayette County Development Authority is the main point of contact for state economic development officials who court large-scale business prospects. The contract would provide FCDA with resources to pursue smaller projects as well, including retail prospects.

The contract is in lieu of the city hiring its own employee to handle economic development, an attempt that proved feeble last year due to the role becoming politicized, resulting in the resignation of then-economic development coordinator Joey Grisham after four months of service.

In an effort to prevent such problems from occurring again, Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch clarified that city council members would use City Manager Jim Pennington as their contact point for economic development matters. Pennington said that was correct.

The new economic development staffer will be hired by the development authority and will not be a city employee like Grisham was. The cost will be pro-rated until April 2 of this year to give FCDA time to hire the new staffer.

The city will see a significant cost savings by contracting the work out to FCDA instead of hiring a city employee, Fleisch added, since council had initially budgeted $164,000 for a city-hired economic development coordinator for one year including salary, supplies and other materials.
Fleisch credited Nikki Knox for the idea.

“We’re putting it into the hands of those people who know what they’re doing ... and not creating a new department for us,” Fleisch said. “It also puts economic development outside the political realm and into the Fayette County Development Authority’s hands.”

In exchange for its payment, the city will get bi-annual presentations on activities and results including a host of data including job growth and loss statistics, wage and salary information and general information on the number of new projects worked and contacts with existing businesses.

New language was added to the contract to state a goal of trying to improve the city’s economic development statistics. Councilman Eric Imker had originally suggested setting a goal of improving those stats by 1 percentage point in each category, but ultimately that notion was scrapped.

The city will provide office and meeting space at City Hall to give FCDA a presence in the city for office hours and meetings. FCDA is headquartered in downtown Fayetteville inside the historic courthouse building.

The initial contract length is for one year, although it will automatically be renewed for a second year on Jan. 1, 2013 unless either party provides a termination notice 30 days in advance.

The contract will be pro-rated this year since the agreement won’t take effect until April 2.

FCDA President and CEO Matt Forshee said he hoped to meet a 30-day timeframe for hiring a new employee, but even so the plan was to hit the ground running on the contract’s goals before the employee is on board.

Forshee said he would like to add to the city’s system of measuring economic development achievement, which he said was a good way to judge where the city is now and where it goes a year from now.

The FCDA board of directors still has to vote on the changes to the contract made Thursday, but Forshee said he didn’t anticipate any problems.