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Alpharetta Chamber pitches plan to enliven downtown, Development Authority says 'yes'

Proposed initiative would give one voice to affected businesses

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Alpharetta City Center

The Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce is seeking funding through the Alpharetta Development Authority to set up an umbrella agency that would promote an active and entertaining downtown.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Alpharetta Development Authority has approved the concept for creating an organization that would foster business development in the Downtown District.

The Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce has proposed forming a Downtown Alpharetta District Advisory Board to help build the area’s brand, promote vitality and provide access to business services and education.

In a presentation to the Development Authority in April, Chamber officials outlined the purpose of the organization and asked for seed money to launch the initiative. The proposal seeks three years’ funding through the Development Authority.

The Authority approved an allocation of $60,000 for the first year.

Chamber President Deborah Lanham said she could not comment on the initiative, because the agreement has yet to be finalized, but further information will be released this summer. Alpharetta officials say the final contract with all the details should be presented for adoption at the next Development Authority meeting June 15.

The Alpharetta Development Authority is an economic entity whose seven-member board is appointed by the City Council. Among its powers is the authority to issue revenue bonds and secure tax abatements.

More recently, the City Council has given the Development Authority more structure, appointing several new members this year.

Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said the city wants the Development Authority to take a more active role as a “driver and creator of economic development activity.”

In addition to its own sources of money through bonds, the agency receives some city funding. The city, for example, uses the Development Authority as a go-between to fund Tech Alpharetta. Alpharetta allocates $95,000 a year to the Development Authority, which it then passes on to Tech Alpharetta.

The city also provides the Development Authority access to its Economic Development tool kit, which entitles the agency to dangle incentives in front of companies looking to relocate to or expand in Alpharetta.

Alpharetta Community Development Director Kathi Cook said her understanding is that the new Chamber organization would serve as a unified voice for downtown businesses and promote the area throughout the region to foster economic growth for the entire city.

“This is a pilot program,” Cook said. “[The Chamber’s] push will be to try to bring the downtown together, which is over 400 businesses.”

Under terms of the proposal, the Chamber will convene public and private stakeholder groups to generate ideas and will create buy-in and commitment from members.

It will dedicate staff to administer programs, conduct research and help secure events and entertainment. It will also collect data for ongoing cost/benefit assessments.

The Chamber has also proposed to convene an oversight committee, separate from its Board of Directors, composed of public and private stakeholders.

Cook said the initiative would include coordination with other business groups like the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and the Alpharetta Business Association, which sponsors the Downtown Alpharetta Farmers Market and whose roots were formed in downtown more than 25 years ago.

Alpharetta Business Association Vice President Lara Dolan said they support the Chamber’s effort.

“As the longest-standing business organization in Alpharetta, the Alpharetta Business Association applauds any initiative to drive patrons and revenues to the downtown area businesses,” Dolan said. “We support the Alpharetta Chamber in their mission and look forward to opportunities to work together in support of our members and local business.”

Cook said the city spent time during the pandemic researching the most current data on what businesses look for in terms of location.

“They’re looking for quality of life,” she said. “Parks are big on the list. Schools are big on the list as well as functioning downtowns that have a lot of events.”

Not every business is interested in locating downtown, she said, “but they want to move to cities that have a high-functioning downtown.”

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(1) comment


I’m Grateful to Kathi Cook and all her positive efforts serving as our interim Economic Development Director. This is an innovative and thoughtful incentive for our entire city’s economic development.. It will have a ripple effect throughout Alpharetta.

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