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Local Voices: ‘Who says we can't collaborate?’
by Barbara Coffee, College Park economic development director
April 29, 2013 08:45 PM | 2411 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A lot of policy makers give lip service to regionalism, but when it gets down to it, it can be very difficult to do. It is just plain hard to work together when it seems we are so busy trying to differentiate ourselves.

Being different, or setting ourselves apart in our marketing efforts, helps us compete effectively in business attraction. That is certainly an important aspect of what we do in municipal economic development. But equally important, is our understanding that we are not an island.

We are part of a metropolitan region branded as Atlanta We adjoin neighboring jurisdictions like East Point, Atlanta and unincorporated parts of Fulton and Clayton counties, and we must work on a daily basis with large organizations like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Atlanta brand helps us locate ourselves in the heart of a major urban center of influence for the entire southeast region. It offers us access to the five million people in the workforce and the added benefit of proximity to arts and culture that new companies and new residents want to be able to enjoy. In addition, being home to the world's busiest airport gives us tremendous pull in a world economy where global business is a reality and access to an international airport is paramount for commerce.

College Park will do well to embrace its position in the metro region and work to find ways to improve its own status by working with others to do so. All you have to do is take a drive around the area to notice things that need improvement. Recall your last experience exiting off I-85 at Virginia Avenue?

Likely, you frowned and shook your head as you were greeted by tall grass and weeds, sign clutter and roadside litter. Maybe you exited Camp Creek Parkway from I-285 and you sat in a long line of cars behind a semi-truck trying to make a left turn onto the overpass at a peak time of day. While you waited there, you noticed broken bottles on the side of the road and pedestrians trying to navigate across multiple lanes of traffic without adequate crossing protection.

Those impressions are often the first impressions that visitors to our community will have. The unsuspecting traveler does not know whether he is actually in College Park or East Point, but he is busy judging the community of his final destination upon entry to it. So it is incumbent upon us to work together to create great first impressions. If we don't, we will all lose the business.

One way we can do this is through the creation of a Community Improvement District, known as a CID. Private commercial property owners see the CID as a solution to the problem. The Camp Creek Parkway Improvement Association has recently formed for the purpose of addressing issues of concern related to transportation, public safety, cleanliness and image on the west side of the airport in Fulton County.

They agree to self-assess for the purpose of collecting additional taxes to put toward improving the area beyond what local governments are able to do. These tax dollars help leverage additional monies from state and federal transportation programs, some specifically for CID's in the region.

The Airport West CID, as we refer to it now, will begin collecting the additional tax revenues beginning July 15. The CID will consist of properties in College Park, East Point, Hapeville, Fulton County and Atlanta. This represents property owners and local governments in five jurisdictions working together under one umbrella in order to create an area that is befitting the world's busiest airport and a gateway entrance to the southeastern United States.

Companies like Duke Realty, Cole Realty, Diplomat, Delta Air Lines, Chick-fil-A, Target, Weingarten, Woodward Academy, Wells Fargo have stepped up to join this effort in an attempt to create dramatic and unprecedented change in the airport area. It is an area worthy of transformation such that it can be the center of influence for the entire metro Atlanta region, a global welcome mat, if you will, to the tens of millions of people entering its gates through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport each year.

This is a step in the right direction. Together we can make a greater impact. When the roadways that connect us are safe, clean, well-marked and branded with iconic signs and street furniture, visitors will think they have arrived somewhere special, some place important, a place they need to be, where their company needs to be, where their families and employees would want to be, and, then, we all win.

For more information, visit the website at www.CCPIA.org and find out more about how to get involved in this effort to bring a region together for the betterment of all its citizens.

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