By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Tucker, GA — Tucker’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) met Jan. 7 to complete a strategic visioning process with the help of economic development experts from Georgia Tech. The last of three meetings, DDA set forth to create a vision, mission statement and five-year strategic plan focusing on partnerships.
Civic groups and organizations are essential to the city, said senior project manager Leigh Hopkins of Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR).
“The DDA could mind the gap, meaning the DDA can find areas to be a supportive partner. Find areas where their partnership is needed to move things forward. Whether it’s with these civic groups, the city, or the CIDs, the DDA plays an essential role in finding those gaps,” said Hopkins.
Next steps include forming a non-profit arm to establish funding mechanisms to help move projects forward, and hiring an economic developer to act as a liaison between the City of Tucker and the DDA.
DDA board members are volunteers, and most DDAs are city-funded. Alan Durham, CEDR economic developer, said a staff person with economic development experience needs to be funded by the City.
Currently, John McHenry is serving as DDA as economic development director. He is also Tucker’s community development director and assistant city manager.
“That is entirely too much responsibility for one job position,” said Durham, suggesting DDA members looks to Smyrna and Norcross as models for a new role.
The vision and mission statement are living documents, and DDA members agreed to continue finessing the language. Concepts centered on building relationships with businesses, identifying new business locations, finding niche markets, and improving commercial areas.
Durham suggested DDA members bring a critical mass of a certain type of business into your area, also called clustering.
“Look at Downtown Decatur. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve said, ‘Let’s go out to dinner. Let’s just go to Decatur, and we’ll figure it out when we get there.’ They have a critical mass of restaurants. They’re a destination,” Durham said, focusing on niche markets and specialized businesses.
City Council members Anne Lerner, Matt Robbins and Michelle Penkava were in attendance, as well as Mayor Frank Auman and Tucker-Northlake CID executive director Matthew Lee.
Lee said, “This DDA has the ability to shape far more the future and the footprint of the town, not only for folks coming in from [out of town], but really for the folks who community as a whole.”