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College Park gets new development director

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After nearly two years without a permanent economic development director, the City of College Park recently hired Barbra Coffee to head the city's development and redevelopment efforts.

Leaving her previous post as the senior development manager for the City of Goodyear, Ariz., Coffee will be tasked with attracting new businesses to College Park and building regional relationships.

From 2003 until late this year, Coffee, a native of Houston, Texas, headed retail attraction, hospitality, and industrial recruitment efforts for Goodyear, Ariz., a growing suburb of Phoenix. According to Coffee, her creation of a redevelopment plan for the city resulted in the Cancer Treatment Centers of America locating its Western Regional Medical Facility in Goodyear in 2008.

Prior to working for Goodyear, Coffee held leadership positions with the Old West End Association of Houston, Texas, and the Marlin Main Street Project in Marlin, Texas, she said. Coffee said she believes her skill sets will be useful in attracting new, aviation-related industries and "high-end" businesses to College Park.

"When I started there [in Goodyear], it was a community of about 30,000 ... the population doubled in size from the time I started," Coffee said. "For the most part, with the fast pace of development and growth, everybody was most concerned with managing the growth. In College Park, we have the same issues ... it's about managing the quality of development and the type of development coming to your community. It's about keeping your companies strong and helping them maintain through a tough economy."

College Park City Manager William Johnson described the present as "an exciting time" for the city, in terms of development.

According to Johnson, a SpringHill Suites by Marriott opened on Monday at Gateway Center in College Park. Gateway Center is a public-private development project off Camp Creek Parkway being developed by Grove Street Partners, according to Jim Stormont, a partner with the firm. The 150-room hotel, adjacent to the Georgia International Convention Center, allows guests to access Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport via a newly-constructed Automated People Mover, according to the Grove Street Partners web site.

A 400-room Marriott hotel, which will serve as the headquarters hotel for the convention center, is slated to open during the first quarter of 2010, according to the Grove Street Partners web site.

Johnson said Coffee will replace Interim Economic Development Director Jamilah Stephens, and will work on improving the city's Main Street, Virginia Avenue, and Old National Highway corridors. He said Coffee will also be in charge of creating an economic development plan for the city and expanding College Park's regional and international presence.

"One of the things we want to come up with is an economic development strategic plan," Johnson said. "It will give us a guideline that will tell us what our goals are for economic development and it will help us track our accomplishments. The other thing she [Coffee] is going to be tasked to do is strengthen our relationships with state agencies, and at the international level. We need to be able to work at the state, regional, and international levels."

Coffee said that this month, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars became the first company to lease office space within the new Gateway Center complex.

"The new Gateway Center is a very big priority for us," Coffee said. "We'll definitely be targeting aviation-related industries, logistics [companies], high-end businesses ... I think, going forward, we are going to see a lot of industries dealing with green initiatives, and that is going to be one of our targets -- even data companies. We have the fiber [optics] and the infrastructure to be a place for those companies.

"We have something here that not many other cities have," Coffee added, noting Hartsfield-Jackson. "Now it's time to talk about what we have here, and share that with the region and the nation. The better relationships and messages we have out there about College Park will make it easier for us to attract companies and make them feel better about where they work."