Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos took her economic message to the city’s business community on Feb. 27, delivering her annual “State of the City” address to the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce.
“Competition is getting stiffer,” Galambos said. “We have put the emphasis on what we can do to be proactive on economic development.”
But first, she gave a report on the city’s overall health.
She said city revenues are hard to predict, but said the city saved about $7 million last summer when it rebid contracts for government services. She also said the Abernathy Greenway Linear Park will be a “huge attraction.” She said the city is progressing on its Roswell Road streetscape project to improve sidewalks but buying up the right of way is “like pulling teeth.”
“We’re paying through the nose,” she said.
The city’s economic development plans have been moving a steady clip over the last several months.
In December, the city hired an economic development manager and in January appointed an economic development advisory committee. The City Council also recently passed an economic incentives policy, offering tax breaks to lure businesses into the area.
Galambos told the audience she’s never been a fan of incentives, which are widely used by cities. But she said the city’s incentives plan “makes sense.”
International trade, she said, will be one of the best ways for the city’s business community to prosper. She spoke about sending a local trade delegation made up of business leaders to the city’s sister city in China, Taicang. Tom Mahaffey, president of the chamber, said several companies are interested in participating.
“Trade is what makes everybody get richer,” she said. “It is now the most important economic development issue.”
The mayor predicted in the next three to four years the city will develop a downtown that will be a point of pride for its residents. She said the city staff has narrowed down three finalists from companies that answered a Request for Qualifications to develop the city’s downtown master plan. There would be further discussion about the RFQ at the city’s meeting in March, she said. At the same time the city also sent out a Request for Information about possible alternatives to the city-owned former Target property for a new City Hall. The city received two responses, but neither of them was acceptable.
While some members of the council have expressed an interest in reopening the process or at least considering alternatives that might be independently presented to the council, Galambos made clear that she isn’t interested in revisiting the issue.
“When you have RFIs or request for bids, if you break your rules nobody is going to believe you,” Galambos said. “We’re standing by the rule.”
Mahaffey praised the speech and said the city’s downtown plans have been well-received by those in the business community.
Valerie Love, president of the Sandy Springs Society and Carla Sweetwood, a chamber board member and past SSS president, both agreed that the center of the city is around the Target site.
The rest of the speech was on the money, they said.
“We’re all very proud of the progress,” Love said.
Here are some clips of Mayor Galambos’ speech from Feb. 27: