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May 30, 2014

Development Authority board approved move to Elks Lodge

Former Chamber roommate surprised

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority board voted Tuesday to take over the second floor of the City of Milledgeville Economic Development Center in downtown's renovated Elks Lodge.

The authority will soon vacate the 130 S. Jefferson St. space currently shared with the Chamber of Commerce.

Milledgeville City Councilman Steve Chambers, District 6, announced the decision to fellow city officials during Tuesday evening's work session.

“I spoke to the authority and answered any questions or concerns. They took a vote that passed with only one descending vote,” Chambers said. “It's certainly a good indication of the willingness to come aboard and fill our second floor. They seemed excited about the possibilities.”

Chamber President and CEO April Bragg said the entity didn't know the moving subject was up for discussion until it heard the news Tuesday.

The Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority share an employee, Director of Operations Hank Griffeth.

“The board voted back in the fall to stay here in this building and should they move that we would move as a unit,” Bragg said. “Based on that decision, we formed a strategic partnership. Our first endeavor together was the shared director of operations. That leaves a question mark as to exactly how that will play out.”

Matt Poyner, Development Authority executive director, said acquiring IT particulars and parking for a seamless location shift are priorities at the moment.

“There are some things we aren't sure about yet,” he said.

Poyner complemented the city's building renovation.

“We've actually held our last two or three board meetings in that [board] room,” Poyner said. “I've had two prospect visits in that room and comment that it's a very nice space. It shows well, and that's what we need to do.”

Poyner values the Chamber relationship and plans on continuing the joint efforts.

“Nothing has changed. Obviously, we won't be housed in the same building anymore, but that partnership won't go away,” the authority's executive director said. “What the Chamber is doing with the state is integral to what we want to do.”

Splitting Griffeth between two entities will take some planning.

“Hank's been a great asset to both,” Poyner said. “It's just a matter of us being on the same page with how this will move forward.”

Bragg said the Chamber and Economic Development worlds go hand in hand. The Development Authority and Chamber have a Memorandum of Understanding for shared services.

“Us all being under one roof has been tremendously advantageous up to this point,” said the Chamber CEO. “That will change things. To what extent is unknown at this point.”

After hearing the information Tuesday, Councilwoman Jeanette Walden, District 2, brought up the Development Authority's current $16,200 rent payment and a $4,560 telephone tab split with Baldwin County. Walden asked City Manager Barry Jarrett if this impending move would make a budget line item change necessary.

“Their budget will remain as their budget. They are going to use the space,” Jarrett said Tuesday.

As far as taking city funds away for the typical $8,100 rent payment at the Development Authority's old location, Jarrett told Council “that's your decision.”

“At this point it's been budgeted as is,” the city manager said.

Walden said, “But that's when we didn't know they were moving.”

“What we said was if he did move over there that would save the rent and the phone bill,” she added.

Considering the city will pass a 2014-2015 fiscal year budget at the next scheduled meeting, Chambers suggested getting the authority transitioned to the new building first before evaluating the finances.

Jarrett didn't know exactly when the authority would be moved into the Economic Development Center.

“But I hope it's very soon,” he said. “The budget would hopefully be approved before they get in.”

Mayor Richard Bentley said, “We'd be achieving that one stop shop” for the same amount of money.

Development Authority Chairman Paul Dean said Wednesday the new building provides more space.

“Where we are at now is getting kind of crowded,” he said. “When an industry comes into town, they can come to one location. It looked ideal for us.”

Dean expects a completed transition by the end of June.

Bragg agreed that at the end of the day the Development Authority and Chamber would maintain a good, working relationship.

“That partnership is critical,” Dean said.

Poyner said regardless of the authority's headquarters location the mission is unchanged.

“The end goal is creating jobs and bringing money to the community,” he said. “It doesn't matter where we are. We will still do our job.”

According to city management, departments such as Planning and Zoning, Human Resources and Downtown Development offices presently housed at the City of Milledgeville Annex Building, located at 127 E. Hancock St., will move into the rehabilitated three-story building also.

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