Leaders of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and DeKalb County outlined their governments’ differing approaches to economic development during a panel discussion on April 25.

“We’ve taken economic development every seriously this fiscal year,” Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos told about 100 local officials and business leaders attending the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ luncheon.

“It doesn’t matter to me whether we fill up Dunwoody office space or Sandy Springs office space, we all benefit together.”

Galambos said Sandy Springs has developed an incentive program to encourage development and has appointed a group of local business officials to advise the city on economic development matters. “I think the horizon looks good,” she said. “We’re in better shape than we have been.”

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis said county officials recently met with representatives of General Motors to discuss redevelopment of the former GM site in Doraville. He called the 165-acre site “probably the most significant site for redevelopment in the Southeast United States.”

“Very soon, I believe, we’ll be able to make an announcement about that site,” he said.

Ellis also touted efforts to impose fiscal control on county finances by cutting the budget by $130 million, eliminating unneeded services and reducing the number of employees. The county has increased its reserves from $9 million to about $30 million, he said. “People still see DeKalb County as a good investment,” he said.

Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis said officials in that DeKalb city are trying to work with developers to bring single-family homes and parkland to acreage near the Georgetown shopping center. The city purchased 16 acres that had been zoned for 700 apartments and packaged them with an adjacent 19 acres to create an area that could be developed for single-family homes, parkland and perhaps a city complex, he said.

Davis said one reason residents created the city of Dunwoody was because of the number of apartments being developed there. He said the portion of single-family homes had fallen to 53 percent of the housing. “That’s why we wanted to become a city,” he said.

The defeat at the ballot box last year of two bond issues proposed for park development meant city officials had to look for different ways to boost redevelopment, Davis said. “We’re giving developers a way to work with us – using their money,” he said.

He said the city also plans to work with the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce to develop a business incubator. The incubator, he said, could draw on support from retired executives in the community and would give “entrepreneurs a chance to move out of their basements and into an actual business location.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.