DionRabouin.com (sort of)

East Point residents eye bright future

Posted in Articles by dionrabouin on June 4, 2012

(Written for The Atlanta Voice 6/1/2012)

EAST POINT – Concerned about declining population and dwindling revenue, local residents gathered at the Jefferson Park Recreation Center on Tuesday to hear more about the city’s Strategic Economic Development Plan for growth and development in the struggling Atlanta suburb.

The East Point City Council requested the plan to analyze the city’s problems and find solutions to some of its economic woes.

According to the plan’s findings, East Point has seen a 15 percent reduction in population since 2000, has drastically plunging home sale prices, and has a 14 percent unemployment rate – more than 2 percent higher than the Fulton County average.

To overcome these obstacles, the City Council brought in the Bleakly Advisor Group from Atlanta to create a plan to get the city growing again. The goal of the plan is to “provide a road map for the city to succeed in attracting private investment within an extremely vibrant and competitive regional market,” an overview says.

The plan will analyze the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, officials said, and provide a blueprint to improve its business infrastructure and attract more residents.

“East Point is at a critical stage now,” said Nanette Saucier, an East Point resident and chair of the city’s building authority. “We have a lot of problems that need to be solved and we need action.

“I don’t believe that anything’s going to change unless people like myself and other residents that are concerned about the city really pay attention to what’s going on,” she added.

The meeting represented the second time residents have gathered for updates about the city’s future. It was the second meeting the Bleakly Group and the city have held for residents. The company hopes to have the project completed in four to six weeks and will present it to the City Council.

“We like to get public involvement on these things,” said Jonathan Gelber, a senior consultant for Bleakly. “I’m glad they were involved. It’s important to have the community involved in these kinds of things, both the residents and the business community.”

Newly elected East Point City Councilman Alexander Gothard was happy about what he heard, but said he is looking for more than just words and presentations.

“We want to see something,” Gothard said. “We are a gold mine. We’re 15 minutes from the airport – the world’s busiest airport – and 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta,” he said. “We shouldn’t have any excuse to not be drawing the biggest businesses, the best businesses and people to East Point.”

Darrell Thomas, an East Point commercial real estate broker, agreed. He called the city a “diamond in the rough” and said the strategic plan was a prime opportunity for development. But he said he doesn’t expect to see results right away.

“It’s going to be a long, drawn-out process. But if they can get everyone within leadership of East Point onboard with the strategic plan, I think that they will have some viable opportunities going for them,” Thomas said.

“I think they’re headed in the right direction, but only time will tell.”

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