The 14 elected officials — five county, nine city — essentially agreed to join forces on a more accountable system of recruiting new jobs and industries. Designating an experienced professional to lead the efforts also appeared to net a consensus.
Differences arose, however, on the details.
County commissioners have all signed off on a recommendation to create a new development authority with six appointees, three by each board. The authority, with input from the city and county managers, would employ the professional recruiter and create a structure to support him or her.
"We've worked out multiple agreements," County Commissioner Wright Bagby told the Rome board he once led as mayor. "This is how it's done. You start with a concept and work out the details as we go along."
City commissioners indicated support, but several want more of the plan in place first.
"I've underestimated the difficulty of this new model," said Mayor Jamie Doss, who has said he's ready to move on it.
Commissioners Craig McDaniel, Randy Quick and Bill Collins also voiced confidence in the recommendation. Collins said he's glad county commissioners are pushing things along and emphasized his concerns for his children and grandchildren.
"When they go off to college, will they come back?" he asked. "Other communities are landing all these great jobs that don't come to our community ... We have a proven relationship, with the two governments working together to make things better as a whole."
There's no choice but to work together and the process works well if "the hard questions" are answered, City Commissioner Evie McNiece said. She called for the recommended concept to be fine-tuned through a committee.
"Are we going to have the money to do what we say we're going to do, or are we going to have to go back to the taxpayers and say we need more because we failed to plan?" McNiece said.
City Commissioner Bill Irmscher also said — "though we are all unified, we are all neighbors" — he wants a committee to come up with concrete plans that can be evaluated. So did City Commissioners Milton Slack and Sundai Stevenson.
"It's been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish," Stevenson said, adding that the evaluation should include a look at "the talent we have now," funding sources and public input.
"I'm not going to make a rash decision; we need a comprehensive plan," she said.
Other options include revamping the current contract with the Rome Floyd Chamber, which is looking for a director to replace the retiring Al Hodge.
Or using the Rome Floyd-County Development Authority, which has independent powers granted by an act of the state legislature.
Pete McDonald, who chairs the RFCDA as chairman of the chamber, said the entity — which elects its own members — has a funding source, the ability to hire staff and connections with existing businesses, small and large.
City Commissioner Wendy Davis proposed working within the current model, saying the county remained relatively strong through the recession because it doesn't rely on just a few major employers.
But the model should be updated, she said, so it's based on the community's strong points instead of the availability of interstate access and large tracts of land.
"Let’s sit down together with a wide variety of stakeholders," she said. "If we have thoughtful conversations, I bet we can get the chamber leaders to agree to give county and city leaders more input. Likewise, we can make adjustments to our existing RFCDA to make sure we have strong leadership rather than revolving players."