Since I don’t nearly have enough things going on in my life, yesterday the DeKalb County Commission appointed me to the board of our county economic development authority, Decide DeKalb. For those of you who have not been following DeKalb County politics, the county has been hit with a number of corruption scandals, including convictions for one sitting commissioner and our previous county CEO.
While no one on the previous authority board has gone to jail, it has not been untouched by accusations. The previous board members’ terms are up, and in a major break from the past, they are all being replaced at once, and I am now one of those replacements.
My own involvement with the Authority began when I started searching the county to find people responsible for recruiting and supporting digital entertainment, film productions and so on. After having no luck with the various county departments, I finally reached out to the county commissioners, only to find that they had similar concerns.
For those people who do not know, in the mid to late 1990s, DeKalb County was the center of Georgia’s game development industry. White Wolf, HDI, Heuristic Park, Quintessential Mercy Studios (hi William) and more made their home in the county. Only HDI is still in the county, but so much talent is still here. Many people who work for studios in Fulton, Gwinnett and even Cobb are still here, but with much longer commutes.
There is no reason that DeKalb cannot regain its former prominence, except that no one is actually focused on that. In addition, DeKalb is the perfect place for the film industry – close to the airport, filled with great talent, packed with a huge variety of shoot locations, home to several studios, and (perhaps most important) featuring great bars for the cast after hours.
It all just needs the county to focus upon these industries and make them priority. Being on the board for Decide DeKalb does not let me do that, but it puts me in a place to try to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, I will probably be spending more time reviewing bonds to recruiting new businesses. Still, putting the tools in place to grow creative industries in DeKalb is a real possibility, and something of great value for the county.
Of course, the other critical issue is improving the business and political culture in the county. As I told the commissioners when we interviewed each other, I am unlikely to have any conflicts of interest until the county starts funding game dev. Addressing the perception of corruption in DeKalb is key, and the best way to do that is to actually get rid of the corruption. I would love feedback from my friends in DeKalb about such concerns. Keep in mind that, as a board member, I actually have little control over the newsmaking scandals, but my goal is to be part of a successful effort to improve and reform what has been going on here.
That’s a long-winded way of saying:
- I am about to be even busier;
- If you have concerns about things in DeKalb, let me know; and
- If you are looking to set up a business or production, contact me to see if DeKalb might work for you.
For those of you who want to see a video of the commissioners interviewing me, I start at around minute 20: http://dekalbcountyga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1164