A three-day trip to Washington to focus on economic growth and development for DeKalb County has been termed a success by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Ellis traveled to the nation’s capital last week as part of a six-member delegation from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). Ellis, who serves on the ARC board, traveled with ARC Chairman Tad Leithead, ARC executive director Charles Kraulter, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who’s also head of ARC’s Transportation Roundtable, and two ARC staff members.
Ellis said one of the purposes of the trip was to convey to Washington officials that leaders in DeKalb County and metro Atlanta are working collaboratively in finding solutions to some of the area’s most pressing issues. “In regional issues, such as the common agenda of sustainability, it is imperative we speak with one voice,” said Ellis.
He added it is vital to show a united front when seeking federal grants.
“We weren’t there asking for any specific pot of money,” said Ellis. However, he noted that during his first year in office in 2009, he traveled to Washington nine times, which resulted in securing $174 million in stimulus funding.
“DeKalb County is well known on Capitol Hill,” he remarked.
Ellis met with Congressman John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Derek Douglas, special assistant to President Barack Obama on the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) on urban and metropolitan policy issues. According to a press release, Ellis conveyed his willingness to partner with the Obama administration to promote livability and long-term sustainability of the Atlanta metropolitan region.
“I wanted Congressman Mica to hear firsthand what our transportation needs are in DeKalb County, so he will be knowledgeable when appropriations are recommended in his committee,” said Ellis in a statement.
In addition, the CEO met with Congressman Hank Johnson on strategies to bring unspent stimulus funds to DeKalb County, and John Fernandez, assistant secretary over the Economic Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as other senior advisors regarding the funding for the redevelopment of the General Motors site in Doraville. He also met with representatives of the Department of Transportation as well as the Office of Management and Budget. He said they were “very well received.”
Of his meeting with Congressman Tom Price on potential redevelopment of the General Motors site in Doraville, Ellis said Price reassured him that he understood the significance and impact of redeveloping the site and emphasized that all the congressional leaders representing parts of DeKalb know what’s going on with it and “move together” on it.
“We learned there may be an opportunity for funding to help to facilitate the redevelop [the GM site]” said Ellis. “We told them we expect this to be a public/private partnership. Everybody realizes this is a tremendous economic development opportunity. The public sector really has to drive this thing.”
The CEO’s trip was not without a chance to socialize. On Feb. 15 he was a guest of Vice President Joe Biden and his wife at their home for a celebration of Black History Month. He also attended a reception for Congressman John Lewis, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a White House ceremony.
“This was a very successful trip,” said Ellis.