The Union Recorder

April 24, 2013

Mayor presents State of the City

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley described a city of opportunity in Wednesday’s “The State of the City” address as part of the Chamber’s Eggs & Issues series.

The mayor said adapting to a new, better normal is the order of the times.

“We’ll be progressive, educated and innovated. I think that’s a city that could be envied at any level,” Bentley said.

The presentation described past and future topics.

• Budget and Job stats

The mayor detailed the city’s current financial state, which he contends is better than most. General fund revenues for fiscal year 2012 were $9.4 million, down from the prior year’s $10.1 million total. 

Water and sewer funds brought in $7.4 million and solid waste revenue was $1.9 million. The city’s general operational fund balance is around $2.8 million in cash and cash equivalents.

The mayor credited a great workforce for doing more with less.

“I hope you can see we are trying to make things as attractive as possible,” Bentley said.

More than 1,000 jobs came to Milledgeville over the last 18 months including the GEO Group prison, Riverbend Correctional Facility, Triumph Aerostructures and the new Kroger. 

Several industries are looking here. Bentley said a lot of times the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority’s good work goes unnoticed.

“That’s the nature of economic development. It’s tough, and a lot of times it’s confidential,” the mayor said.

Time is “of the essence” for opportunities through the city-funded Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority. 

Bentley discussed the state properties challenge. The authority can’t simply acquire use of the land and buildings under the current legislative landscape.

“We are going to sit down with our delegation to try and draft a piece of legislation that will pass and give us the opportunity to access those buildings,” he said.

• Milledgeville attractions 

The Convention & Visitors Bureau registered 100,000 tourists last year. Bentley said thousands more visit local historic, cultural and natural attractions.

“You can imagine the number of people that don’t register at the CVB and come through town,” he said. “Tourism is economic development, and we work hard trying to maintain that.”

Milledgeville sets up well for a retirement destination. Nationally, seven of the top 10 retirement communities are located in college towns.

State surplus property around the Bill Ireland YDC could house a future retirement development. 

“A retirement community somewhere in that 400 acres would be very beneficial to us because of proximity to the hospital, and it’s not that far from the college and downtown attractions we have,” Bentley said.

Milledgeville was voted as the best middle size community on the Georgia Cities Heart and Soul Bus Tour for an active downtown. 

The city attained a $42,000 pavilion grant for the current farmer’s market location as well.

“I think that is going to add a great deal aesthetically and functionally to the downtown,” the mayor said Wednesday. 

• Educated city 

Few communities boast three unique colleges, according to Bentley.

“There is no reason in the world that anybody in this community can’t get an education,” he said. “You don’t have to leave Baldwin County.”

Community in Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County (CISMBC) and Central Georgia Technical College have programming to improve literacy for citizens and the city workforce.

Displaced Central State Hospital employees have a chance to attain a GED diploma on location.

“I think it’s very good that CGTC and the CIS partnership are going to reach a lot more people,” Bentley said.

• Shaw and Elks buildings

The city acquired the Shaw building and placed it on the market. Talk of a business incubator repurpose swirls also.

Much like the University of Florida’s Innovation Center in Gainesville, the Shaw building space formerly housed industry and is roughly the same size.

An innovation center could provide on-site resources and startup space for business entrepreneurs. 

“They would go out into the community ready to hire, produce a product and render a service. That’s good for the community and a job creator,” Bentley said.

The vacant Elks Building adjacent to City Hall is becoming a one-stop shop for economic development. At present, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money funds the city’s renovation.

Housing all city economic development, code enforcement, engineers and business offices would be attractive for incoming businesses, according to the mayor.

“We’d like for them to come in that one building and get all of the answers they need,” he said. “ I want people to go out and say it’s easy to do business in Milledgeville.”

City manager Barry Jarrett said the building completion date is January 2014.

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