Interim CEO says economic development a top priority

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May said the county is crafting its first-ever strategic plan. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

Economic development is at the top of the priority list for interim DeKalb CEO Lee May.

“We are doing some things we have not done in the history of our county,” May said during a lunch meeting of the Stone Mountain Community Improvement District (CID). “We are crafting for the first time—as long as anyone can remember—an actual strategic plan for economic development.”

May said the economic development plan would provide the county with vision.

“There’s a [Bible] scripture that says people without a vision will perish,” May said. “And then there’s another scripture in the book of Habakkuk that says ‘write the vision and make it plain.’ This strategic plan its going to allow us to …write our vision and make it plain.”

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted Sept. 24 to hire a professional agency to help the county develop a economic development plan at a cost of up to $210,000.

May said county officials are also deliberating on the strategic relationship between the county, DeKalb County Development Authority, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and other business entities.

“There will be a new entity, a new structure that is a little more removed from politics, that can undertake the marketing efforts, the branding efforts, and the economic development efforts for that community,” May said.

So far DeKalb County has committed $750,000 for the economic development endeavor while the county’s Development Authority has committed $500,000, May said. The county’s Chamber of Commerce is also considering a financial commitment.

“We have to do things differently,” May said. “We have to be competitive.”

One area that is hindering economic development is the county’s business permitting process, which May described as “a nightmare to say the least.”

May said his goal as interim CEO is to partner with the Board of Commissioners “to do as much good as we can during this short period of time.”

As you all know, I have a big “I” in front of my title, interim CEO,” May said. “It means temporary, which means transitional, which really describes DeKalb County right now in terms of its leadership. We are in a transitional period and there has been a lot going on.”

May and the commissioners are “working together to save this ship and move our county forward, [and] begin to solve some of the pressing issues that we’ve been facing…over years,” he said. “In this role the big question mark I have is time. I don’t know how much or how little time I have in this position.

“We didn’t get in this position overnight,” he said. “We can’t fix everything that we’re looking to resolve overnight.”

May praised the Stone Mountain CID for being proactive about addressing its needs.

“You all in this area have made great strides in a short period of time,” he said. “I think you all have people around the county a bit jealous, which is a good thing because it’s also spurring people into action.”

Emory Morsberger, president of the Stone Mountain CID, said the organization is “working to dramatically improve the Stone Mountain and Tucker industrial area” by addressing landscaping, road improvements, security issues and economic development.

“We are working to improve a lot of different things in the Stone Mountain CID,” he said. “Our goal is to dramatically increase the volume of business being done by our members. We want to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

 

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