Rome City and Floyd County officials took the first step Tuesday toward creating an economic development authority aimed at luring new businesses and industries.
"This is the biggest change we've made in a long time," Mayor Jamie Doss said. "We cannot afford to lose our momentum."
Currently, the Rome Floyd Chamber is contracted to handle both outreach to new prospects and assistance to existing businesses. However, longtime President and CEO Al Hodge is retiring in April and a committee tasked to research other models is recommending the responsibilities be split.
"(Our) model differs with the majority of other successful economic development divisions across the state, where the recruitment of new industrial prospects and the fulfillment of existing industries operate under separate agencies," the recommendation taken up by the Joint Services Committee reads.
The committee was made up of County Manager Jamie McCord, City Manager Sammy Rich, County Commissioner Wright Bagby, City Commissioner Craig McDaniel and Chamber Chair Pete McDonald.
Preliminary plans call for setting up a six-member authority charged with attracting new jobs to the community. Each commission would appoint three members, and the authority would hire an industrial recruiter as its top administrator.
The chamber would continue to work with existing industries on expansions. Bagby said the group's executive committee has already voted to back the plan.
"We're in a changing time," County Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said. "It's hard for all of us to make a change that we feel is going to affect so many people ... But we're all committed to working together. We've been spending money for economic development for a number of years ... we've got to figure out a different way."
Details are still being worked out, but officials agreed that seats on the authority would be split evenly between the two commissions. Wallace said the county could appoint city residents and vice versa because the object is to create the best team.
"Our feeling was, if there ever was a 3 to 3 vote, we probably wouldn't want to do it anyway," Bagby said.
McDaniel said there's no timeframe yet for the change, but they want to do it quickly. Once the bylaws are in place and the appointees seated, they — along with the city and county managers — will hire the industrial recruiter.
"Our intent is to bring jobs here. If we get this set up right it will last 15, 20 years. It will last beyond us," McDaniel said.
See Sunday's Business section for a deeper dive into the creation of the Rome Floyd Economic Development Authority.