Belle Isle, who is now serving his second year as mayor, said it is important to establish Alpharetta as a place to be and not just a dot on the map.
“The best way to add value is to … create a hometown,” he said.
The mayor pointed out that Alpharetta’s population has increased so much throughout the past few decades that most of its residents did not grow up there.
“But a hometown is where you feel at home,” he said.
Belle Isle urged residents to “consider Alpharetta your hometown” even if they didn’t grow up there. This, he said, will increase community involvement and add value to the city.
Belle Isle said the three factors in creating a valuable city are to endow, invest and invite.
“We’ve got good quality people doing great things,” Belle Isle said of the city’s staff and ways they are working to “endow” the city.
Alpharetta continues to be one of the only two AAA bond-rated cities in Georgia, and Belle Isle said burglaries are down 24 percent from 2011 to 2012. He also spoke about the city’s three large parks, the Big Creek Greenway and the many pocket parks, saying these things added value to the city.
Speaking on investment, Belle Isle said it’s not enough to just “spend money.” Investments, he said, should be made to help make the city endowed and inviting.
“If you’re going to create value, you have to create identity,” Belle Isle said, speaking about the city’s new downtown development project, which the city is using a $29 million bond to build.
As another example of investments, Belle Isle mentioned Gwinnett Tech’s new campus, which is locating to Alpharetta after the city offered them a $4 million incentive.
Belle Isle also spoke about the recently formed Alpharetta Technology Commission, designed to bring more tech companies to the city and retain the many already located there.
“We need to figure out what’s next,” he said of Alpharetta’s reputation as a technology city. “We have one of the best fiber option cable systems and power grids in the country, but that was so 15 years ago.”
Focusing on “inviting,” Belle Isle said one of the main goals is to get people going downtown.
Though the downtown development project has only just begun, the mayor said the community involvement in downtown is already gaining momentum.
For instance, he said, winter’s Christmas tree lighting brought 10,000 people downtown — which in turn impacted local restaurants and shops.
Going forward, Belle Isle said the city is considering building a convention center, is looking at hosting regular food truck events and may seek out a four-year learning institution.