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How these two groups aim to help business development in Cumming
city business
Downtown Cumming stirs with activity early on Thursday. The city of Cumming recently approved members for two groups to handle business development. - photo by Brian Paglia

The city of Cumming recently approved members for two groups to handle business development in the city, though each will have separate roles and duties.

In December, the Cumming City Council approved members for the city’s development authority — a group which had previously existed, though all previous members’ terms had expired — and a new downtown development authority, which, as the name implies, will handle attracting businesses to the downtown area.

“Both of them are similar in the aspect that they’re going to support development in and around the city,” said City Administrator Phil Higgins. “The city still has ultimate control over both of them, and particularly, the downtown development authority has a narrower, specific area that it is concerned with.”

Under state law, each city in the state has the option to have such a downtown authority, but it must be activated by local elected leaders.

Both groups will have a role in attracting businesses to the city, but all items approved by the authorities will have to go to the city council for final approval.

Other than the difference of names, the downtown development authority has a power the other development authority does not: it can own property and collect rent. 

“One benefit they both have is there is less red tape to deal with as opposed to dealing directly with the city,” Higgins said. “They can do different things. They can rent property out. One other thing they can do, they can enter into multi-year agreements, which is something most developments want. They want multi-year agreements whereas the city can’t do that. The city can only enter into a one-year agreement because they can’t bind a future board if a new councilor comes in or a new mayor.”

The city’s development authority has a history of projects, including helping with the building of the University of North Georgia’s Cumming Campus.

“When they came in several years ago, that was all done through the development authority,” Higgins said. “The development authority borrowed money actually from the city. We granted them a loan to get started on the campus over at Aquatic Circle. The school did all of their business at that time with the development authority because it was going to take more than one year to do all that.”

Higgins said one upcoming development that will be under the purview of the downtown development authority will be the upcoming Cumming City Center on Canton Highway.

“That would be placed into the downtown development authority at some point because they would be able to go through a property management company and collect rental income or lease income from the people that are in the city center conducting business,” he said. 

Both groups are made up of the same members, except Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter will serve on the development authority and Councilman Jason Evans on the downtown development authority.

The other members are Lisa Mason, Eric Bennett, Brad Garmon, David Leathers, Eric Kimbral and Kelly Lamb.

“They were nominations from the mayor and council, people they would consider to be stakeholders,” Higgins said. “You don’t necessarily need to be a city resident to be part of that committee. The development that is in the city, it impacts the entire county, so they chose different members of the community that they thought would bring something to the table in terms of their expertise and their work, whatever industry they’re in.”