The community forum Monday night capped off a weekend of events focused on unity throughout Calhoun and Gordon County. Residents raised questions about jobs, law enforcement and water infrastructure in a question and answer session with City Council members Al Edwards, David Hammond and Matt Barton, along with City Administrator Eddie Peterson.
City resident John Chattam asked about better opportunities for Calhoun’s young people to find employment here.
Young people, Hammond told Chattam, “will go where they can find the best compensation.”
Calhoun is set up to take advantage of a better economic climate, largely because of its location on the interstate, he said, which will conceivably provide more job opportunities, however.
The slight upswing in the economy means an almost certain spurt of economic growth in Calhoun, but that it must be managed conscientiously, he said. The key, he explained, is to seek diversity in job creation instead of simply letting different sectors grow randomly as the economy improves.
There is a delicate balance, when attracting businesses, between providing too many breaks, like tax abatements, and still being able to provide for the financial functions of city programs - the school system being the key one, he said.
Another strategy is for Calhoun’s leaders to look at their neighbors’ business and industry growth and manage an up-tick here according to what is working in other areas, he said.
It’s important to “see where other people are succeeding and build on that success plan,” he said.
Meanwhile, city council members said they are doing what they can with the money they have.
City officials have worked to tighten the city’s budget in the past few years in accordance with the general climate of the recession.
“It’s no different than your household budget; what you can spend is what you make,” said Edwards.
The city has utilized grants in the past few years to make projects like the West Calhoun Urban Renewal Plan and Resolution possible. Hammond said a Community Development Block Grant allowed for an extensive replacement of water and sewer lines and new sidewalk throughout the western portion of the city, as well as residential improvements.
The city officials encouraged community members to stay involved with their surroundings and utilize lines of communication that already exist. Private companies have authority boards in place partially to dialogue with the community, Hammond explained.
He advised the residents in attendance to take advantage of those types of entities when they have questions.
“Those relationships go a long way,” he said.