Fort Oglethorpe To Consider Hiring Development Director As Chickamauga Battle Anniversary Approaches

Monday, February 18, 2013 - by Mike O’Neal

Fort Oglethorpe soon could have its first-ever paid director of the city’s downtown development authority.


During their monthly meeting Monday, the city's Downtown Development Authority (DDA) trustees agreed that the city council should consider hiring someone to oversee projects and write grant proposals for the historic district.


“We’ve got to do something or Ringgold will eat our lunch,” board member Ron Davis said, before making a motion that the request be placed before the city council.


Mayor Lynn Long, who attended the DDA meeting as a guest, said the idea of having someone working full-time to recruit new businesses, support existing ones and promote the city has been discussed in the past — it is nothing new.


But now, Mayor Long said it is critical that the city move forward.


“This would be a paid position,” the mayor said.


City Councilman and DDA board member Louis Hamm will have the request for hiring a DDA director placed on the city council’s agenda for next Monday.


“That director could be a grant writer for the entire city,” he said. “As a city employee, he would be responsible to the city manager.”


DDA Board Chairman Jeff Epperson suggested asking for up to $40,000 a year to be allocated to hiring a director, one that work a specified number of hours for the DDA.


“We will ask for a full-time employee,” he said.


With as many as 200,000 expected to attend events related to the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Chickamauga that is scheduled for September, having a director to oversee marketing efforts and promotions would be beneficial, the board agreed.


The DDA members also were unanimous in an immediate need to install banners and signs to welcome travelers who will be attending events at the Chickamauga National Military Park and reenactments of the battle held in nearby McLemore’s Cove, and attract them to the city’s historic district.


Board member Harold Silcox presented a mock-up of a design that could be used for fabric banners, signs or posters advertising the city’s historic district — that stretch of LaFayette Road that extends from Battlefield Parkway to the entrance of the battlefield.


“A DDA director could oversee such a project,” he said.


While much of the evening’s discussion centered on promotion of the city’s historic past, board member Derek Rogers posed the question, “What do we have to offer?”


The DDA has been involved for nearly a year in an urban renewal plan, REFRESH Fort Oglethorpe, and an accompanying Opportunity Zone.


If implemented, REFRESH would totally revamp the aesthetics and commercial appeal of the historic district while Opportunity Zone designation would offer serious tax incentives to businesses that open or expand within its boundaries.


Mr. Rogers was told both plans are being burnished before being presented first to the city council and then to state’s Department of Community Affairs.


Mr. Epperson advised the board that both plans must be submitted to the state before the end of March if there is any hope of their approval.

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