By Jason Massad

Dunwoody officials are looking to land a big star to anchor the city’s tourist draw: the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

The museum, currently located in Macon, is shopping itself around to interested bidders that can host and attract people to a facility that pays tribute to artists such as Jerry Reed, “Blind Willie” McTell, the Allman Brothers Band and TLC.

Councilman Danny Ross said that a group of the city’s stakeholders – including its Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and local organizations dedicated to the arts – will back a proposal that will try and lure the museum to the city.

“This is something that can benefit the city,” Ross said. “If we can bring in new businesses and support existing businesses by bringing in people to eat more meals, shop and stay in our hotels … that’s what we want.”

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame currently relies on a heavy state subsidy to remain viable at its current location in Macon, according to state documents.

In October, a bidders’ conference was held that revealed wide interest from various cities interested in the museum, which hosts standing exhibits – like a display of replica Gretsch guitars used by greats such as George Harrison and Chet Atkins.

The bidders’ conference drew officials from Dunwoody, Athens, Dahlonega, Albany and Macon, Ross said.

The newly incorporated Dunwoody stands up well to those locations, considering its proximity to Atlanta and the already popular draw of Perimeter Mall. The city estimates that 18 million people a year come to Perimeter Mall.

Dunwoody’s proximity to metro Atlanta is also a plus, Ross said. People could visit the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and be close to other popular attractions, like the Georgia Aquarium and Stone Mountain, he said.

“There are 5.5 million people within 30 minutes of Dunwoody,” Ross said. “Why wouldn’t Dunwoody play host to this?

Something like this would be added to what we offer in Dunwoody and you could come and stay here instead of other places.”

Katie Brenckle, executive director of the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Dunwoody’s location is not the only – or the most important – factor in attracting the museum.

She said the Dunwoody proposal has to be innovative in ways to continually attract visitors to the museum. Part of the problem that has caused the museum to languish financially in Macon is that ticket sales have been the lone local revenue base for the museum, which has not kept pace with its operating costs.

Food and beverage, live entertainment and a rotating band of events could give the museum multiple avenues of funding, she said.

“At the meeting, they were very open about unique ways to operate this,” Brenckle said. “They want communities to get creative.”

An official with the Macon Chamber of Commerce confirmed that the city has formed a committee to prepare a bid to retain the Georgia Music Hall of Fame where it is now located. However, the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau and chamber officials did not return calls seeking further comment.

Ross said the Dunwoody officials received answers to some pertinent financial questions in early November. He said the Dunwoody City Council will be advised of the proposal, but that a formal vote from the council isn’t necessary to approve it.

“We will respond [to the bid],” he said, of a proposal that’s due Dec. 10. “It’s too early to tell how early we’re going to respond, but there’s no question we will.”

A public-private partnership that plays benefactor to the museum “is the way I see this happening,” Ross said.

The city will need to delineate how it will make the museum financially viable, Ross said. The museum has the potential to attract more visitors in Dunwoody than Macon, he said. Membership to the museum could also be an avenue to make money, he said. Sponsorships could provide another source of income.

The memberships and sponsorships could be rewarded with a creative mix of events centered around the museum, which is steeped in country, soul, pop, blues and Americana musical traditions.

A nonprofit public-private partnership could build and finance a building to house the museum and then be responsible for the ongoing operations, he said.

“This is where fundraising is important. We’ve got people in our community who are very good at that,” Ross said. “We’ve got tremendous relationships between the public and private sector.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.