‘Select Fulton’ to help market county for business

Dade County, Fla. went so far as to change its name — becoming Miami-Dade County — to let businesses know that when they came to that part of South Florida, they would get a thriving city.

Ted Baggett of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government didn’t suggest rebranding as Atlanta-Fulton County — municipalities from Milton to Chattahoochee Hills might protest. But, he told Fulton County Commissioners Wednesday, utilizing Atlanta’s name in their economic development efforts might help bring more business across the county.

Commissioners took his advice and chose "Select Fulton: Your Atlanta Connection" as the tentative name of a new county-wide economic development arm. It will combine the county's office of economic development and its development authority and will serve as a single point of contact to help bring in business.

“Making that Atlanta connection may have that national and international recognition benefit,” said Baggett, the associate director at the University of Georgia’s Vinson Institute. “The role we see for Fulton County is in consensus building. A rising tide will help all ships for Fulton County.”

In addition to being an economic development clearinghouse, the new venture will do countywide site and workforce research and will focus on redevelopment opportunities. It will continue to try to bring companies to unincorporated South Fulton.

Instead of having two part-time workers sell South Fulton, one full-time employee will do the job. It will allow more coordination among workers who hadn’t communicated in the past. Two new positions, a redevelopment specialist and a research specialist, will be added.

“There is a value in having a Fulton County effort that is county-wide,” County Manager Dick Anderson said. “All of us benefit if someone locates in Fulton County.”

In passing the proposal 6-0, commissioners emphasized their own interests in small businesses or on the importance of the arts in recruiting. Some expressed concern that there would be conflicts between the needs of the unincorporated part of the county and the cities.

But they agreed on the importance of modernizing the operation.

“This makes an awful lot of sense,” Commissioner Lee Morris said.

Baggett said there was a sense that Fulton’s existing economic development efforts didn’t have enough visibility. The change, he said, would combine county resources to increase its reach. After all, the county has the greatest power for giving out incentives, too.

The move is part of the county’s plan to streamline government and show more results.

“We’ve laid the foundation now to tell our story,” Vice Chairman Liz Hausmann said. “All we want is for folks to know how wonderful our county is.”