CONYERS - Rockdale County is at a crossroads in its economic development and is in need of long-term strategic planning, said CREDC Director Marty Jones, who urged county, city and economic leaders to come together soon.
The topic of developing a strategic plan for continuing economic growth came up at the CREDC meeting Thursday as Jones highlighted the shrinking number of large tracts of land and readily available buildings for interested manufacturers and corporations.
"I think we need to get in front of those issues," said Jones.
He cited the planning that the community's forefathers did in the 1970s and 80s that paved the path for the industries that exist now along 138 and Sigman Road, such as the DART plant (formerly Solo and Sweetheart Plastics), Golden State Foods, Pratt, HillPhoenix, and more.
In the 1980s, local leaders and the Development Authority asked Oglethorpe Power to conduct a feasibility study for an industrial park along Sigman Road and Ga. Hwy 138.
At that time, said Jones, "There was no road there, no water, no sewer. Quigg (sewage plant) did not exist; it got built because community decided that's where development needs to go. It was a city/county/Development Authority project that drove that expansion which allowed all the growth we've had in last 30 years."
Jones continued, "This is not a project CREDC needs to spearhead or run. My job is to bring this up to the city, county, development authority to make sure you know what we need to do this.
"We as a community need to take this project on to figure out what we need to do... How we get there, there's a lot of different ways."
CREDC board member Mike Houchard pointed out the county will be required to update its five-year land use and transportation plan next year.
"We have a window of timing," said Houchard. "If community can come to a consensus, that could be incorporated into and be a part of the discussion of the land use plan. You can't have economic development without those two being tied together."
Houchard mentioned he thought the Sigman Road corridor was a logical core for continuing development when looking at the 30-year picture, though a portion of that, from Ga. Highway 20 to Lester Road, was residential now and would probably become commercial over the years.
Jones pointed out many of the parcels along Sigman Road were smaller tracts that would likely become commercial tracts.
CREDC member and Commission Chairman Richard Oden mentioned the Salem Road corridor and Sigman Road corridor as areas for growth.
Oden said many Rockdale residents leave every morning for their jobs in other places and spend their shopping dollars where they work. "We need to figure out how we sustain ourselves in the long run."
Afterwards, Jones agreed with the need to attract the "creative class" and asked rhetorically, "How do you attract those people and industries to your community? It's about community development."