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Right leaders could lead to economic transformation

6/6/2014, 6 a.m.

Second of a two-part series

Last week, Dr. Kathryn Rice reasoned that a city of South DeKalb would be a worthy rival to the city of Atlanta. This week, she identifies the ZIP codes that would make up the City of South DeKalb and proposes a leadership structure for success.

If we create the City of South DeKalb, won’t we be isolating ourselves from the rest of the county? Will this be considered divisive?

Rather than looking at this as isolating yourself, think of this as strategically positioning South DeKalb to join the rest of the region in effectively competing for assets and quality of life.

As part of a county, commissioners have to represent the citizens of both unincorporated areas and cities because they get taxes from both sets of constituents (albeit at different levels).

But mayors represent only the interests of their constituents. Having a mayor would help in different ways but none more so than in economic development.

How can we improve our economic development if we haven’t done so thus far?

With the largest amount of available land, South DeKalb can be the new frontier for development in metro Atlanta.

When we select a police chief, we seek someone who has experience in safety. When we select a superintendent, we seek someone who has experience in education.

Let’s search for and select someone who has knowledge or experience in economic development and management. And this is where I promote having a CEO or mayor. A city manager cannot go abroad and make a decision. He/she has to leave the final decision to a group of seven people.

A CEO or mayor is a decision-maker. He/she can bring together important personnel, promote a city, and make decisions. In my opinion, South DeKalb will need a strong leader, like a mayor.

What’s the biggest value/strength of forming a city of South DeKalb?

In my opinion, the biggest opportunity facing the new City of South DeKalb is the ability to foster economic development. Like a beast in the jungle going after its prey, a similar mind-set needs to exist in our leadership to transform an area that is behind the power curve. Make no mistake – it can be done!

If Ningguo City in China – a remote area in the mountains of China that initially had little transportation, few natural resources for manufacturing and little commerce – could transform itself into a top producing city in its region, now known as the Ningguo Miracle, then with the right leadership, South DeKalb can do the same.

The new City of South DeKalb would have an abundance of assets such as proximity to a premier city (Atlanta), proximity to the busiest airport in the world, all the major transportation highways, a large number of professionals, Stone Mountain, proximity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, access to a college and university system, and so forth.

Can’t we become the South DeKalb Miracle? On top of that, South DeKalb will soon become home to one of the most powerful CIDs in the region – another proven tool for promoting economic development.