“Our job is to … partner with the city and do what we can to improve the city’s tax revenue base by encouraging as many businesses as possible and [encouraging] economic development to foster and grow root in the city of Brookhaven,” said Arthur Freeman, the chamber’s CEO and executive director.
Though the chamber is newly formed, it has been several years in the making. Freeman explained a group of local business professionals formed the Brookhaven Community Connections in 2009 with the understanding it could evolve into a chamber of commerce should the community become incorporated as a city. Many of the board members and volunteers from that organization now work with the chamber.
The group’s main priorities in its inaugural year are fundraising and growing membership.
“We can’t do anything unless we raise funds,” Freeman said.
Just a week into operation, he said the chamber had pledges from about 10 to 15 entertainment venues, banks, legal practices and medical practices interested in becoming chamber members.
“There’s been a certain amount of pent-up anticipation,” he said.
The chamber plans to hold seminars and information meetings to help businesses get through the process of transition from DeKalb County to Brookhaven rules and regulations.
Freeman expects the quality of life in Brookhaven to attract new companies and their employees to relocate or build in the city. The city’s nature walks, parks, recreation options, bike trails and a close proximity to downtown are attractive features.
“Our neighbors don’t have the amount of green space that we have and that gives us a leg up,” he explained.
Freeman said he anticipates several development projects that had been stalled or dropped during the recession will pick up in the next year or so and bring new businesses and jobs to the city.
The Peachtree Summit Community Improvement District at Lake Hearn Drive and Ashford Dunwoody Road is the city’s “single-greatest business opportunity” because there is room to build five office towers of 20 floors or more at the site, he said.
“[That] could bring easily another 1,000 to 1,400 new businesses to Brookhaven,” Freeman added.
Peachtree Summit is currently the location of the event venue Villa Christina, several mixed-use townhomes and condos, and a new 173-bedroom hotel that will open in 2014.
Freeman said the mixed-use format speaks to how the city will base new development on moving forward. He added new mixed-use developments would be favorable options for prime real estate in Brookhaven that has been sitting mellow through the recession.