DALTON, Ga. — Members of the Downtown Dalton Development Authority board say incoming director Catherine Edgemon will have a bigger and broader task than any director before her but they are confident she has the skills and experience to succeed.
“We had a little over 20 applicants,” said DDDA board Chairman JaneMarie Wilson, owner of Mama Wilson’s Homemade Cookies & Cakes. “We stated in the job description that we wanted someone with experience in economic development or as downtown/main street manager. We wanted someone who could do the job coming in. We narrowed down the candidates to four and interviewed them. She had the most experience and had such an impressive interview and seemed so excited about the opportunity to come to Dalton.”
Edgemon, who was named the sole finalist for the position in November and confirmed by the board earlier this month, starts on Monday. She was the Main Street coordinator for the city of Perry.
“She ... did a great job there,” said Wilson.
Perry is the county seat of Houston County and has a population of about 15,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Under Edgemon’s watch, Perry was designated a rural development zone by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, making those who invest in, create jobs in or redevelop buildings there eligible for tax credits and other incentives. The rural development zone largely overlaps Perry’s downtown.
“We are excited for her to be coming on board,” said Wilson.
Edgemon will be paid $70,000 a year.
The DDDA has a staff of two, including the director, and had a 2018 budget of $150,000 funded primarily by a downtown property tax. The DDDA helps downtown businesses qualify for various state and federal business incentives, operates a program that compensates businesses and property owners for part of the costs of improving the facades of their buildings and helps businesses with any of the forms or paperwork needed to open a business downtown.
The DDDA was created by the Georgia Legislature in 1981. It is governed by a six-person board whose members are elected by downtown business and property owners.
Former director Garrett Teems left the DDDA in April of 2017 for a position with Tandus Centiva. Teems had served as director since June 2016 and was paid $39,000. Former Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce president George Woodward has been serving as interim director.
“George has done a terrific job of not only keeping the DDDA running but keeping it moving forward,” said board member John Davis. “We are very grateful to him and appreciate all he has done.”
Davis agreed with Wilson that Edgemon’s background in economic development will be vital.
The DDDA is set to roll out a new comprehensive plan for the agency and for downtown Dalton on Feb. 5, 2019, and board members say Edgemon will be charged with implementing that plan.
Dalton and Savannah were selected this year as the two cities that will take part in the Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning Process (RSVP), a collaboration between the Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation to help cities come up with master plans to revitalize their downtown areas.
“We’ve always had goals and targets for our directors, but I’ve had a chance to preview this plan and it is so comprehensive and so detailed,” said Davis. “It’s different from anything we have done before. I think it has the potential to be a game-changer.”
Allyson Coker, project manager for Believe Greater Dalton, will be working with Edgemon to help develop downtown Dalton.
“I met her very briefly when she was here to be interviewed. I look forward to working with her,” Coker said. “I know that she brings a lot of experience and expertise in developing downtowns. We’ll be hand-in-hand in rolling out that plan and implementing it. The people at the Vinson Institute have really poured their hearts into this plan. They have very thoroughly looked at our community, especially downtown, and have come up with a very comprehensive document.”
Believe Greater Dalton is a public-private partnership of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and local governments formed last year that seeks to implement a five-year strategic plan for Dalton and Whitfield County. It is focused on six strategic areas to improve the community: educational outcomes, housing, entrepreneurship, economic development, downtown development and community pride.