On Wednesday, April 27, 2022, The Council for Quality Growth and the Douglas County Chamber hosted the 2022 State of Douglas/Douglasville at the Douglasville Conference Center. Chairwoman Dr. Romona Jackson-Jones and Mayor Rochelle Robinson delivered their annual addresses with over 300 people in attendance and another 200 tuning in virtually. This year’s event was presented by Atlas Technical Consultants and Truist.
State of the City of Douglasville Mayor Robinson delivered her State of Douglasville first, praising her city for its ability to adjust, adapt, and move forward with the pandemic looming in the background the last few years. “This community did not simply endure, it found ways to thrive,” the Mayor said, “through fiscal responsibility and proper planning, our City continued to deliver high quality services, great amenities, and sincere and heartfelt customer services to our citizens.” She went on to recognize the reopening of facilities and return of events in the city in 2021 have allowed citizens to “engage and fellowship” again, such as Douglasville’s annual Christmas celebration and 4th of July parade. In addition, the city has done its part to provide testing options, vaccination opportunities, and health resources to its citizens, as well as scholarships and funding to help small businesses recover, coming out of the pandemic.
Douglasville’s conservative Finance Department was recognized with multiple GFOA awards, including excellence in financial reporting and the “Distinguished Budget Presentation” award. They were able to pass a balanced budget without raising property taxes, allowing them to “successfully navigate uncertain times” and strengthen the overall financial position of the city. Last year, Douglasville was able to implemented many new financial health policies, including an Emergency Management Future Plan to be prepared for any global impact event that may occur again and new incentives for employees included college reimbursement and flexible work options. Mayor Robinson’s city boasts an increased bond rating of AA in 2021.
Douglasville approved a SPLOST in 2016 that is coming to the end of its 6-year collection period, totaling $40 million in revenues to the city. The funds have helped move forward capital improvement projects in the areas of transportation, public works, public safety, parks and recreation, and city facilities. Some notable projects are the completed City Hall, Police Department’s firing range, gateway beautification on I-20, and a new Sanitation and Maintenance Facility. The GreyStone Amphitheater and Douglasville Town Green are making their way to the city soon as well, with site work beginning in December 2021 and a target for completion in the spring of 2023. It is expected to bring many new residential and commercial development opportunities to Douglasville.
Since 2016, the city has resurfaced over 34 miles of roadways, about 28% of its streets, using combined funding from the SPLOST program and the Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant. A Tax Allocation District established in 2020 has also provided an additional $638,000 towards infrastructure and beautification projects in its designated area. These alternate sources of funding have allowed Douglasville to make critical capital improvements to boost the quality of life for its residents.
Big businesses are bringing community investment, jobs, and culture to Douglasville including Bang Energy, Microsoft, and Switch. The city has seen a 5% population growth over the last 2 years. With over 3,100 housing developments applied for, Douglasville is striving to bring housing variety to the community for all stages of life. The Mayor ended by thanking her city employees and 19 volunteer citizen boards for their help making Douglasville a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
State of Douglas County Douglas County Chairwoman Jackson-Jones then took the stage. “Douglas County has become the promised land for progress,” she began, “our county is booming with residential and commercial growth, robust road construction throughout, and billions of dollars of investment.” She reflected on some accomplishments of 2021, including 1,000 new jobs from existing businesses, 2,000 new residents in the county, and 9.1% overall business growth. 2022 has had a promising start as well, with the announcement of several new projects including the Westin Foxhall Resort project, a film production studio, a data center, a food processing facility, and an advanced manufacturing facility all coming to Douglas County.
“Our small business are the lifeblood of our community,” said the Chairwoman, committing the County Commission to prioritizing small business growth and sustainability. In an effort to do so, she commended the regional effort to create Elevate Douglas, a private-public partnership that creates one voice for economic development in Douglas County.
Chair Jackson-Jones affirmed that the financial state of the county is “impressive and well-positioned to address both current and future mandates,” with no outstanding taxpayer debt, a rainy-day fund that has tripled over the last 5 years, 53% budget growth since 2019, rising property values, and increased sales tax revenues. These factors prove Douglas County’s continued economic strength and ability to move forward in a time of social unrest, disparity, and a perplexed political climate the nation has seen in the last few years. Federal COVID relief and ARPA funds have also helped fuel the Douglas County community through these unforeseen times.
The Chairwoman also praised the 2016 SPLOST, which yielded funding for over 84 major county transportation, fire/EMS, and parks and recreation projects. Some she highlighted were a new large senior center in Lithia Springs, a 6,000-seat multipurpose arena to be used for graduations and other ceremonies, sports complexes and performing arts centers for the high schools, a fire station renovation, and the groundbreaking of the long-awaited state Driver’s Services center finally coming to Douglas County. In addition, the Douglasville/Douglas County Water & Sewer Authority completed a huge sewer expansion project in 2021 and were recently awarded the 2022 Water Treatment Plant of the Year in the state of Georgia.
The County has not only developed a 30-year comprehensive transportation plan, but also 5-year strategic plan, or what the Chairwoman called their “playback for planning our communities’ future together.” The strategic plan defines the County’s vision, crafts its values, determines KPIs, and declares accountability. The six primary goals of the 5-year plan are public safety, infrastructure, economic development, public health, recreation programs, and the transformation of Douglas County. She specified the efforts her administration is making toward each of these goals. These include a 10% pay increase for public safety officers, investments in clean water and high-speed internet in underserved communities, road resurfacing, modernizing connectivity with sidewalks and walking trails, maximizing access to the economic hubs in the community with multimodal transportation options, and engaging youth to build a strong workforce. The Chairwoman says she is committed to promoting “economic self-sufficiency” in Douglas County.
The Council would like to thank the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Douglas County, the City of Douglasville, and each of our sponsors listed below for their help in making the 5th consecutive State of Douglas/Douglasville a success.
Re-watch the full recording of the virtual event here: