Progress Partners, the newly-formed economic development arm of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, presented an update to Alpharetta’s City Council on Monday. Contrary to what you might think, the Chamber doesn’t perform this economic development task out of benevolence. They’ve asked each north Fulton city to kick in a few bucks to fund the operation. Monday was the city’s first status update after funding the project.
Among the accomplishments mentioned was the Progress Partners website. They touted that the economic development website welcomed 2000 visitors since the beginning of 2012. I don’t know if this little factoid resonated with the Council like it did with me.
I can’t speak with real authority on many things, yet I have a pretty good grasp of the amount of traffic local websites can generate. I know that a hyper-local blogger with minimal web design skills and a propensity to make grammatical errors can still manage to get people to visit a website. Let’s just say that more people point their browsers to my little blog in a given week than to Progress Partners’ website in seven months. (and I’m grateful for each and every one of you who do!)
But Progress Partners does a lot more than build high-traffic websites. They’ve been busy promoting north Fulton as a business destination. This is truly important work. However, in the time since Alpharetta inked this partnership the city has hired a new economic development director of their own. Alpharetta and Progress Partners need to better define the roles of the relationship going forward. It’s likely to be a discussion point for Council in the weeks ahead.
While discussing the terms of the city’s relationship, I would encourage Council to address one important issue…
Progress Partners came under fire during the Avalon zoning this past Spring. They openly lobbied in favor of the zoning application, drawing the ire of not only this blogger but Common Cause Georgia. Additionally, Progress Partners lobbied in favor of T-SPLOST. This didn’t draw criticism in north Fulton but Gwinnett County’s Chamber drew controversy over the same behavior. Organizations receiving taxpayer funding should not advocate for political issues, candidates or ballot initiatives.
Alpharetta’s Council should address this issue now, while there is not a brewing controversy. Future arrangements with the Chamber that involve the exchange of taxpayer money should come with the requirement that the Chamber doesn’t lobby for political causes. It’s a common sense solution that gives everyone involved political cover. It’s also simply the right thing to do.