By Joel Hall
In an effort to move forward with the county's economic development plans, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners has installed Grant Wainscott, executive director of the National Museum of Commercial Aviation in Forest Park, as the county's new economic development director.
The vote took place Tuesday night, after an hour-long executive session during the board's regular meeting.
Wainscott replaces Wade Starr, the county's fleet maintenance director and provisional policy and planning director, who, for two weeks, also served as the county's provisional economic development director.
Wainscott, who is the former vice president of community and economic development for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the former director of economic development for the City of Morrow, said he is honored to take the position.
Despite recent hiring controversies surrounding county government, Wainscott said he is ready to meet the "challenges."
"There are challenges everywhere," he said. "The way that you approach it separates those counties that can manage it, and those that can't handle it. I really think we will weather this.
"What separates Clayton County is the potential that is here. We already have so many tremendous assets, and we want to make sure that we are marketing them the best that we can."
On Jan. 6, Starr was appointed by the board to replace former Economic Development Director Robin Roberts, who resigned Jan. 2. While Starr received a $24,000 raise to take on the added duty of provisional policy and planning director, he said he did not receive additional pay as provisional economic development director, as it was never meant to be a permanent appointment.
"It was not the board's intention for me to be the director of fleet maintenance, and director of policy and planning, and director of economic development," said Starr. The board "asked if I would help with the transition in the economic development department. That was an additional responsibility they asked me to accept."
Starr said Wainscott would be well-suited to the position, given his background and familiarity with the county. "I think that he has the experience, working with the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the City of Morrow," he said. "The board voted for him unanimously. I think he can help us expand the tax base of Clayton County, and that ultimately lowers the tax burden on the homeowner."
Wainscott said his main goals as economic development director will be to promote the county's strategic location and tax incentives to potential businesses, improve job growth, job retention, and workforce development, and evaluate new and existing development projects.
A re-evaluation of the Gateway Village - a conference center project begun several years ago on land opposite the National Archives and Records Administration in Morrow - will take immediate priority, he said.
"We're still trying to evaluate the best use of the site and what is viable in this economy," said Wainscott. "The original plans called for a hotel-conference center on the site. We are going to be revisiting what to do with the county-owned portion of the property."
Wainscott said he would also focus on redeveloping the Mountain View area and help guide the county's three tax-allocation-district projects in the northwest, northeast, and central parts of the county.
In 2007, the county awarded Wainscott a two-year, $360,000 grant to help with the operational costs of the National Museum of Commercial Aviation. Wainscott said he plans on remaining the executive director and head curator of the museum, while serving as the county's economic development director.
County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said he fully supports Wainscott. However, Wainscott's position as the museum's executive director is something the board "will have to talk about," he said.
"I don't want the museum piece interfering with the economic development," he said. "The board may choose to adopt that museum project as one of its economic priorities. It is necessary for us to have a talk about that issue."
Bell said he did not know what Wainscott's salary would be. Calls to Renee Bright, director of the Clayton County Personnel Department, were not returned Wednesday.
Wainscott said he hopes to eventually grow the three-person economic development department, in order to help the county capitalize on future economic opportunities.
"We just have too much going for us," he said. "If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be in this position."