Three DeKalb County commissioners talked during a recent DeKalb Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the importance of new transportation projects and how they could spur economic development.
Commissioner Jeff Rader said the Transportation Investment Act of 2012 (TIA), if passed, would offer opportunities for construction and development that would stretch over 10 years.
In 2010, the TIA was developed as a funding mechanism for regional transportation projects. Residents will vote this summer whether to impose a 1 percent sales tax to fund the proposed projects.
“Nobody likes to pay additional taxes but when we’re talking about investment in our economic strength, job creation and improving our communities, I think this is a no-brainer and one we’ve got to go ahead and pass,” Rader said.
County officials estimate the TIA, if passed, could bring approximately $1 billion in transportation construction jobs to the county.
Commissioner Larry Johnson said he still hopes the I-20 corridor would be added to the transportation items on the list.
“The line that goes from South Indian Creek to I-20 and Wesley Chapel would only enhance economic viability and create the wealth that needs to happen in that corridor, as well as increase property values in that area,” Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Commissioner Stan Watson said they hope state legislators could find a way to fund the transportation projects without creating an additional tax burden on DeKalb County residents.
Additionally, Watson said the former General Motors plant in Doraville would be a great place for economic development because of its size and location.
“I think it’s a viable place and it’s a great place that’s centrally located for rail,” Watson said.
The GM plant has remained vacant since 2008, when the company closed its doors as a cost-cutting measure. Since then, several proposals have been made to use the 165-acre property—everything from building a new sports stadium to a multi-use cityscape facility much like Atlantic Station. However, the county and city have yet to finalize any deal.
“The plans for the plant should be a livable community—something that resembles Atlantic Station—and something that includes the health science and bioscience sectors,” Watson said.
Johnson said the only way he thought the plant could be successful would be if the city of Doraville partnered with the county every step of the way. He also said he thought the city should work closely with the DeKalb County Economic Development team.
“Everything has to live and die with the leaders of the city of Doraville because that’s in their own backyard,” Johnson said.
The three commissioners also spoke about the importance of working out zoning issues to encourage businesses to relocate to DeKalb.