The task force, which included City Manager Sammy Rich, County Manager Jamie McCord, County Commissioner Craig McDaniel, County Commissioner Wright Bagby and Chamber Board Chairman Pete McDonald, has proposed the creation of a completely new agency to supervise industrial recruitment. That agency would hire a new lead recruiter, effectively taking that role away from the chamber.
The change was proposed after Chamber President Al Hodge announced his plans to retire next April.
Last month, the chamber executive committee and Floyd County Commission both endorsed the change, however the Rome City Commission has not taken a vote.
McDonald said Thursday that the support from the executive committee was simply in the form of a resolution which would be passed on to the full Board of Directors, which is what happened Wednesday. McDonald said of the more than two dozen board members at the meeting Wednesday, there were just a few who had questions about how the whole process evolved.
The chamber board voted to move forward and stand united with city and county officials in implementing a new economic development model. However the chamber board is recommending that the Rome Floyd County Development Authority be tasked as the lead agency for industrial recruitment under the new model to ensure representation from chamber members and GREIA members.
The RFCDA is a constitutionally created agency which has the authority to issue tax abatements for new and expanding industry. The agency collects Payments in Lieu of Taxes and has an assets balance that now exceeds $1.5 million.
McDonald said he is aware of some commissioners that support the RFCDA as the lead recruitment agency, as well as others who prefer an entirely new agency to lead the effort. He said concerns about turnover on the RFCDA could be resolved with input from elected officials as to the at-large appointments to the agency. The chamber board director has historically served as chairman, and changes every year, but there is nothing in the bylaws to prohibit at-large members from serving as chairman.
The at-large members serve staggered three year terms and RFCDA attorney Andy Davis said there is no limit as to how many times a person could be appointed to serve. He also said he felt the authority members would give strong consideration to anyone suggested for appointment to the panel going forward.
One of the reasons the city commission has not bought into the change is that commissioners have not seen a proposed budget for the new agency. Elyse Davis, Northwest region community development manager for Georgia Power, told the task force that it could easily cost close to $200,000 to hire the right person as the lead recruiter and provide some administrative support. McDonald has previously indicated that with funds for marketing and additional staffing, the budget could easily jump to the $400,000 to $500,000 range.
A press release from the chamber indicates that its mission remains to promote prosperity and growth in Rome and Floyd County and these efforts will only be strengthened by this transition.
"Everything we do is economic development," said 2019 Chamber Board Chairwoman Elaine Abercrombie. She believes that with the lead role in industrial recruitment taken off the chamber's plate, the membership-driven organization will have even more time to spend addressing the wants and needs of its 900-plus business members.
"I'm excited about the opportunities we'll see to serve our existing members and gain new members," Abercrombie said. “Everything we do to improve Rome and Floyd County is a part of helping economic development."