Posted: Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 at 11:33am
Oakwood City Manager delivers promising Economic Update
By Marc Eggers Staff
OAKWOOD – Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown told members of the South Hall Business Coalition, “It’s one thing to bring new people in but we need to take care of what we have.”
That’s a very pragmatic statement for a municipality where 85-percent of their tax base is commercial or industrial by designation. Managing a city like Oakwood, where there are more jobs than citizens, requires a slightly different approach than running a “bedroom community” that empties every weekday morning as commuters head to work elsewhere.
With just over 4,000 full-time residents, Oakwood’s population burgeons once the workday begins and reverses itself as the sun sets beneath the horizon.
That can be an ideal situation for any governing body: commuters who spend money in your jurisdiction during the day, but require few municipal services because they don’t live there. But even felicity needs capable management.
Brown pointed to a consistently low tax millage rate and a $3.72 million General Fund balance as evidence of the city’s strengths, but candidly admitted that he had some second-thoughts about a couple of investments made by the city during the booming economy a decade ago.
“Like a lot of the businesses out here, and investors, we got ourselves in a situation where we were land-rich and cash-poor. So we’re trying to turn out of that. We’ve had to really cut back on some of our operating expenses…but I think coming out of it we should be much better.”
Brown enumerated several developments within the corporate limits that were seeing strong growth and generating revenues, but also cited a 24-acre “access-challenged” tract owned by the city. “We have worked it out with Tanners Creek Business Park to where we’ll have access to our property through Tanners Creek off of Thurmond Tanner.”
Browns explained how a road would be built to allow access to their property. “It’s a pretty good sized tract; the city owns that piece of property. I wish somebody else owned it,” Brown said with a chuckle. “If anybody wants to write a check we’ll be glad to work something out.”
Pointing to the numerous strengths of the city, Brown said, "We have the tools in the box to do a lot of things to enhance and…incentivize economic development. Partnerships we have between the cities have never been better."
One municipal amenity paramount in such an environment is roads and road maintenance. Oakwood handles that in-house. “Pavement management is something that we take a lot of pride in…we have 95-percent of our roads in the ‘good-to-very-good’ category, and we’re working very hard on that other 5-percent,” Brown said.
Brown added that pavement management also includes sidewalks. “You can walk from Walmart all the way down to the old egg-plant there at (Highway) 211; about eight miles worth of sidewalks.”
Brown made special mention of numerous projects underway including the expansion at King’s Hawaiian, the relocation of Milton Martin Toyota from Gainesville to property adjacent I-985, and the conversion of the old Sam’s Club at the I-985/Mundy Mill Road interchange into a Northeast Georgia Health System facility.
NGHS plans to use the building as office and logistic space, referring to it as a corporate support center.
Overall Brown was very upbeat about Oakwood’s condition and direction. “We do feel like we’re an economic engine. We’re a donor community…we create more revenue than we take in.”
“At the end of the day we do feel like we are a government of trust and integrity…about as transparent as you can get. We want to see economic development occur and take care of our environment.”
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