Gov. Nathan Deal talks about economic development in Georgia.

State Farm bringing 10,000 employees to Dunwoody, the Doraville GM plant being sold to developers, and the future interchange work at I-285 and Ga. 400 are some of the positive things panelists at a North DeKalb Economic Development Forum pointed to. They also addressed some of the area’s challenges, including ethics violations and traffic gridlock.State Farm bringing 10,000 employees to Dunwoody, the Doraville GM plant being sold to developers, and the future interchange work at I-285 and Ga. 400 are some of the positive things panelists at a North DeKalb Economic Development Forum pointed to. They also addressed some of the area’s challenges, including ethics violations and traffic gridlock.

Transparency is one of the keys to attracting businesses to DeKalb, said county CEO Lee May at the Oct. 8 panel hosted by the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce.

“We have an 800-pound gorilla in the room, and it’s about ethics,” said Brookhaven City Councilman Joe Gebbia, who helped moderate the discussion and asked May how the county could attract businesses while faced with ethics challenges.

“We’re not in a very competitive place in terms of our reputation,” May answered. He said the answer to that was to be as “transparent as we know how.” And if we don’t know, he said, find someone that can help.

The discussion, held at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Perimeter in Brookhaven, included representatives from north DeKalb’s cities, chambers of commerce and local commissions as well as state and county officials.

Brookhaven City Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Chase Williams said that while cities should support large businesses, they should also focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“We have an awful lot of people working out of their houses,” she said.

Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis said that he is trying to reach out to every business in his city. “I want to find out what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, what we can improve on,”

Davis said that while companies in Dunwoody are able to attract good employees “from all four directions,” the “bad news is that traffic is not good . . . we have to fix that.”

Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal were also on hand.

“We have to invest in order to grow,” Cagle said. He used the cities of Atlanta and Birmingham as an example. He said that in the 70s the two cities had about the same sized population, but then “Atlanta took on the biggest investment of its day.” That $5½ million investment, he said, was what is now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Today we celebrate the fact that it is the busiest airport in the world,” he said. “You have to make strategic investments.”

Cagle said that the state, counties and cities also need to provide a qualified workforce to attract companies, and that can be done by improving education and getting away from the “one size fits all” model. Cagle said that local communities need to be able to build personalized curriculums, and that is why he introduced the charter system, which gives school systems operating flexibility.

“We continue to be a state that is growing,” said Deal near the end of the forum. He said that growth includes jobs.

“We lack the workforce to fill some of the jobs,” he said, which is why the state is paying 100 percent of tuition for students going to technical colleges to pursue specific programs, including welding and commercial drivers licenses. He wants to expand that program to include programs such as film set design, computer programming and precision manufacturing.

“We don’t want to see companies import people into Georgia” to fill those jobs, Deal told the forum’s attendees. The area needs a qualified workforce because “you are in the portion of metro Atlanta where companies want their headquarters to be,” he said.

Transparency is one of the keys to attracting businesses to DeKalb, said county CEO Lee May at the Oct. 8 panel hosted by the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce.

“We have an 800-pound gorilla in the room, and it’s about ethics,” said Brookhaven City Councilman Joe Gebbia, who helped moderate the discussion and asked May how the county could attract businesses while faced with ethics challenges.

“We’re not in a very competitive place in terms of our reputation,” May answered. He said the answer to that was to be as “transparent as we know how.” And if we don’t know, he said, find someone that can help.

The discussion, held at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Perimeter in Brookhaven, included representatives from north DeKalb’s cities, chambers of commerce and local commissions as well as state and county officials.

Brookhaven City Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Chase Williams said that while cities should support large businesses, they should also focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“We have an awful lot of people working out of their houses,” she said.

Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis said that he is trying to reach out to every business in his city. “I want to find out what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, what we can improve on,”

Davis said that while companies in Dunwoody are able to attract good employees “from all four directions,” the “bad news is that traffic is not good . . . we have to fix that.”

Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal were also on hand.

“We have to invest in order to grow,” Cagle said. He used the cities of Atlanta and Birmingham as an example. He said that in the 70s the two cities had about the same sized population, but then “Atlanta took on the biggest investment of its day.” That $5½ million investment, he said, was what is now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Today we celebrate the fact that it is the busiest airport in the world,” he said. “You have to make strategic investments.”

Cagle said that the state, counties and cities also need to provide a qualified workforce to attract companies, and that can be done by improving education and getting away from the “one size fits all” model. Cagle said that local communities need to be able to build personalized curriculums, and that is why he introduced the charter system, which gives school systems operating flexibility.

“We continue to be a state that is growing,” said Deal near the end of the forum. He said that growth includes jobs.

“We lack the workforce to fill some of the jobs,” he said, which is why the state is paying 100 percent of tuition for students going to technical colleges to pursue specific programs, including welding and commercial drivers licenses. He wants to expand that program to include programs such as film set design, computer programming and precision manufacturing.

“We don’t want to see companies import people into Georgia” to fill those jobs, Deal told the forum’s attendees. The area needs a qualified workforce because “you are in the portion of metro Atlanta where companies want their headquarters to be,” he said.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.