A more proactive approach to helping small businesses is the main focus a strategic economic development plan the city of Sandy Springs is creating.

More than 80% of the city’s businesses employ fewer than 10 people, Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy said during a City Council work session on Oct. 20.

The top takeaway in RKG Consulting’s report is a bigger emphasis on small business that leads the city to be more proactive.

Full implementation of the consultant’s recommendation requires a doubling of current resources, which is in line with other programs in the region, Worthy said.

She said the city’s Economic Development department — which consists of two staff members — needs to be more proactive. But to do that, it needs more staff, specifically to reach out to small businesses.

Councilmember Jody Reichel the important thing is to hire someone to be the point person between the city and local businesses.

At Councilmember Tibby DeJulio’s questioning, Worthy said current priorities are creating jobs, capital investment and interacting with companies that contact the department. Most of what Worthy and Caroline Davis, the other member of the department, do is reactive by answering calls and referring companies to resources offered by other agencies.

The RKG report suggests prioritizing retention and expansion of the city’s small businesses. City efforts should focus on keeping those companies and helping them grow, the report said.

Especially with the pandemic, the demand for office space has reduced, with live-work experiences taking a bigger priority.

Worthy said a request for a staff position focused on small business will likely be brought to City Council at one of the next budget cycles.

“A small business liaison is my number one priority,” she said.

The prioritized implementation goals suggested included:

  •       Create opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to start and grow businesses in Sandy Springs.
  •       Proactively engage existing companies to strengthen business retention and expansion.
  •       Increase community awareness of the city’s economic opportunities and challenges to ensure informed decision-making.
  •       Support regional efforts to attract new companies to Sandy Springs that offer better-than-average wage rates.
  •       Centralize and broaden the city’s data collection efforts to better inform economic development actions and policies.

·        Continue to build the city’s implementation partner network and collaborative efforts.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.