New chamber president plans to ‘drive progress in DeKalb’

Taylor at her desk2

Katerina Taylor said one of the things she likes about her new position as president of the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is that it enables her to use skills she honed in the corporate world along with her passion as a community advocate.

“The chamber is the one place key players in the building of our community come together.

Education, tourism, government, workforce development, community service and many other elements all work together to build a county where people will want to live, work and play. I was a banker for 16 years, and I’m the daughter of a successful entrepreneur. I started my own business in 2009. I have a deep appreciation for how everyone works together to build a community,” Taylor said.

Since the resignation of Leonardo McClarty in May, Taylor had served as interim chamber president. She was named president in September. The first woman to head the DeKalb County Chamber in its 76-year history, Taylor said she brings a perspective that may make DeKalb’s chamber unlike typical chambers of commerce, which are traditionally male-driven.

“We’re not going to be conventional. We’re going to be forward thinking. We’re going to try some things that haven’t been tried before. I don’t mean I plan to turn DeKalb upside down, but if I have to turn it upside down to make it place where existing businesses can thrive and new businesses will want to come to, then we’ll turn it upside down,” she said.

“We’re going to be aggressive in recruiting business to DeKalb County. We have many wonderful assets. We have great colleges such as Emory, Oglethorpe and Agnes Scott. We have the CDC and Stone Mountain is the top tourism attraction in the state. We need to make sure people know these are in DeKalb,” she said. “We need to let people know DeKalb is open for business.”

A native of Kansas, Taylor has lived in Georgia 11 years. She joined the executive team of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce in 2012 as the director of memberships and programs; in 2014, she was promoted to director of operations and investor relations, giving her oversight of all chamber staff and responsibility for the budget.

She said that now is “a great time to help lead DeKalb County,” noting that her overarching goal is “to drive progress in DeKalb through business advocacy, collaboration, community and a diverse, high-performing staff.  We have a highly diverse county—more than 200 languages are spoken here—I want to reflect that diversity in the chamber staff.”

She acknowledged that DeKalb County has an image problem stemming from legal problems in both the school system and county government. “But I think we’re now moving in the right direction. Superintendent Michael Thurman is doing a phenomenal job with the school system as is [Superintendent] Phyllis Edwards in the city of Decatur. [Interim DeKalb County CEO] Lee May is being very responsive to problems in government that may be hindering business. He is urging our members to let him know when they see problems with doing business in DeKalb. He said, ‘We can’t fix a problem unless we know about it,’” Taylor said.

The key to future progress, she added, is transparency. “We have to start operating in an environment in which there are no secrets. People have to know where money comes from and how it’s being spent. The hiring and promoting process, the rules for doing business with the county have to be out in the open.”

Taylor also noted that county unity will be important to DeKalb’s future. “In the years I’ve lived here, I’ve been hearing about rivalries between different areas of the county. That needs to stop. We have to stop dividing the county up,” she said. “When something good happens in DeKalb, we should see it as a victory for whole county and not be concerned about whether it happened on the north side, the south side, the east side or wherever.

“There are unique communities within the county, and that’s a good thing. That’s something we should embrace, but neighborhoods should not see each other as rivals,” Taylor said.

The new chamber president said she wants every corner of DeKalb to be physically attractive.

“I have nothing but praise for the work the CIDs [Community Improvement Districts] are doing to build their areas of the county. It makes a huge difference when areas—whether they’re commercial, industrial or residential—are clean and well cared for. That creates a place where people want to be,” she said.

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One thought on “New chamber president plans to ‘drive progress in DeKalb’

  • October 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm
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    DeKalb has an ” IMAGE PROBLEM ” = YOU THINK ???

    Had a gun battle in the middle of West Flat Shoals Terrace Tuesday morning at 7:45 when School Children are going to their bus stops, morning rush hour traffic was heavy on Flat Shoals Rd only 150 ft away. We call DeKalb 911 around 30 minutes later a police car rides down the dead end street turn around and leaves.

    No one interviewed no questions asked = The office just leaves.

    Look at your neighborhoods in East and South DeKalb, what’s up with the Video Poker Machines everywhere ???

    One bar at Moreland Ave and Cedar Groove rds has over 40 illegal video poker machines = all in plain sight = for years you could see as many as 7 – 9 DeKalb Police Officers in there having a “FREE LUNCH” sitting not more than 15 feet from all the crap.

    The Police out of The South Precinct in South DeKalb are bought and paid for by the gamblers and whores in the county.

    And this Cedric the Entertainer, our New Director of Public Un-Safety why do you think that he choose to live in Brookhaven, a new city that demanded City Hood because they were sick and tired of the inaction of the DeKalb Police just like Dunwoody = GET RID OF THIS RIDICULOUS DR CEDRIC ALEXANDER TODAY !!!

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