Georgia development chief tells DeKalb to clean up

When Georgia’s top economic development official met with DeKalb lawmakers, he delivered a message: The county needs to avoid scandals if it wants to attract businesses.

Chris Carr, the commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said Thursday that DeKalb’s recent history has damaged its reputation.

Carr said he’s worried about the overall lack of economic growth throughout a county with a strong workforce, higher education institutions and a strategic location.

“If governors have to continue to remove school boards, if county commissioners continue to get indicted, if we continue to land on the front page of the news because of the latest scandal, companies are going to continue not to come,” Carr, a Dunwoody resident, told a dozen legislators.

He also said he's concerned that the redevelopment of the former General Motors factory in Doraville could fail without the DeKalb school district's support for infrastructure improvements.

Fewer businesses have chosen DeKalb than its neighbors in recent years, said Carr, who lives in Dunwoody.

Since 2011, Fulton County has added more than 24,000 jobs with $2.8 billion of private investment, and Gwinnett County has brought in 8,500 jobs with $937 million of investment, he said. By comparison, 7,000 jobs have been created in DeKalb with $174 million of investment.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the middle of the major economic engine that is metro Atlanta,” Carr said. “There’s an environment that’s been created, and the companies are just choosing someplace else.”

The legislators and Carr agreed that they should encourage government leaders to work together, avoid controversy and involve residents in the community's future.

“I think we need to concentrate our time and efforts on making DeKalb County stronger, and it can be very much citizen driven,” said Rep. Michele Henson, D-Stone Mountain.

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