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Clayton leaders meet to develop business strategies

By Justin Boron

Growth is inevitable, said former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, adding, how it is accommodated can determine the fate of a community it impacts.

Parris, who now is the president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, spoke at a business summit that focused on urban growth and how government and business can combine resources to enhance Clayton County's economic future.

"There is a new vista of opportunity for us to be working together," County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said.

Government officials and key business players covered a range of concerns at the first of three summits. But most of the meetings were closed off to the public and media.

Bell led several other officials who he called "the best of the best" in a press conference Friday.

Glendening, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta, Clayton Chamber of Commerce President Shane Short, and Development Authority Chairman Lou Hisel sat on the panel.

Parris, whose organization helps community leaders develop smart growth strategies, said the county should study how it can maintain the existing open and green space.

He also said development in communities can be too rich.

"Things can go so well that many people are priced right of their community," Parris said.

Bell also discussed the economic development that could come from commuter rail.

He has proposed that it be used to promote the Heritage Trail that would take visitors through historical sites found in Clayton County.

"It takes us from the Civil War to Civil Rights," Bell said.

State officials may decide to kill the rail, but Bell said he expects them to approve it.

"We've done everything that was required of us," he said. "We did what our parents told us."