DeKalb County leaders want to ensure that county residents get most of the estimated 4,000 jobs created when its $1.35 billion watershed infrastructure improvement project gets under way.
“We’ve got to repair our water and sewer system and the silver lining to the cloud is the creation of jobs,” said DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis during a Nov. 10 announcement of a jobs initiative. “We know that America needs to get back to work and we need to start right here at home.”
In an effort to comply with the its First Source ordinance that requires contractors doing business with DeKalb County to seek to fill positions with county residents first, the county’s One DeKalb Works initiative is a partnership with the National Urban League (NUL), which will oversee the filling of jobs and will be responsible for small business development.
The NUL will “monitor our performance and train our citizens so we have a ready pipeline for those jobs,” Ellis said.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, commended DeKalb County leaders for leveraging a problem and turning it into a solution to create local jobs.
“Local government can make a big difference in putting people back to work,” Morial said.
Over the next nine years, the county’s water and sewer improvement project is expected to create up to 3,670 direct jobs and 709 indirect jobs, according to a recent study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. Another 300 jobs, such as grocery and retail positions, could be created by the by the economic activity resulting from these projects.
The economic impact on the county is anticipated to be approximately $1.77 billion, Ellis said.
The upgrades will address the requirements of a proposed consent decree in which DeKalb County agrees to pay a $453,000 penalty from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for excessive sewage spills. The county also agreed to implement a $600,000 stream cleanup project, focusing on debris removal from parts of the South River, South Fork Peachtree Creek and Snapfinger Creek.
“Your tax dollars are going to be reinvested in a fashion where people in this county can afford to buy homes,” Morial said. “People in this county will shop and spend money that will accelerate and multiply in this county to create even more jobs.”
Other partners include Goodwill Industries of North Georgia, which will offer construction jobs training; Georgia Piedmont Technical College (formerly DeKalb Technical College), which will provide occupational skills training; and North Georgia Building and Construction Trades Council.
U. S. Rep. Hank Johnson said the One DeKalb Works initiative is the “precise type of partnership that the times call for.”
“This is the role of the government,” Johnson said. “Government is not the problem. Government, along with private enterprise, is the solution.”
Ellis said the initiative is “good news for the metro region.”
“We’re giving working families opportunities to go back to work,” Ellis said. “We can’t get this economy nationally back together until we have citizens who are working. When you’re working, you can put more money back into the economy because you can spend.
“The magnitude of the repairs that we’re going to be completing …has presented us with the opportunity to implement our own local stimulus program that will create jobs now and help citizens grow businesses now,” Ellis said.