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MARCH 2010


Whitfield County’s ‘Team Turnaround’

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G OV E R N M E N T VOLUME 61 NO. 8 • MARCH 2010

JERRY R. GRIFFIN Executive Director, Publisher ROSS KING Deputy Director JAMES F. GRUBIAK General Counsel CLINT MUELLER Legislative Director Revenue and Finance


MICHELE NeSMITH Research and Policy Development Director KELLY PRIDGEN Assistant General Counsel


President’s Message


County Matters

TODD EDWARDS General County Government Natural Resources and Environment


MATTHEW HICKS Economic Development and Transportation


DEBRA NESBIT Health and Human Services Public Safety and the Courts

By Deborah Dewberry, Editor


CAROL BAKER Meeting Planner KATHLEEN BOWEN Special Projects Coordinator BETH BRADLEY Land Initiative Director

Whitfield County’s ‘Team Turnaround’

By Warren Brown and Mathew Hauer, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia

8 22

BETH BROWN Director of Communications

Up for the Count

Bringing Preparedness to Your Community By Charley English, Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Homeland Security

JEFF CHRISTIE Staff Liaison, UGA Cooperative Extension DEBORAH DEWBERRY Magazine Editor ADAM EDGE Financial Services Specialist


EFRAIN RODRIGUEZ Chief Information Officer


DAVE WILLS Government Relations Manager Risk Management and Insurance DAVID A. PAULK Director

The Bottom Line: Cost Cutting Considerations for Your County By Michele NeSmith, Director of Policy Development and Research, ACCG



BEN PITTARELLI Manager of Marketing and Field Services

Index of Advertisers

PENNY HENDERSON Administrative Assistant Accounting and Finance J.C. McBEE Chief Financial Officer DARRYLE CRAWFORD Senior Accountant

In this issue, Georgia County Government will provide extended coverage for some articles in the CountyLine e-newsletter. Watch for this icon at the end of the article to indicate more information is available and check out the March CountyLine to learn more.


DEONTÉ BURDEN Staff Accountant Administrative Assistance CARMENZA WHITLEY Executive Assistant

On the Cover: The Dalton College bell tower in Whitfield County epitomizes the community’s upward climb toward economic recovery. Photo by George Spense.

KIMBERLY OWENS Administrative Assistant RHONDA LIGONS Front Office Assistant NATALIE FITZGERALD Legal Assistant

Georgia County Government is published for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia 50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 1000, Atlanta, Georgia 30303 Phone: 404-522-5022 • Toll Free: 800-858-2224 Fax: 404-525-2477 • Web:

Published by Naylor, LLC 12600 Deerfield Parkway, Suite 350, Alpharetta, GA 30004 Phone: 770-810-6957 • Toll Free: 800-796-8638 Fax: 770-810-6995 • Web: Naylor Publisher: Mark V. Migliore Naylor Editor: Elsbeth Russell Advertising Director: Nicole Hudson Advertising Sales: Krys D’Antonio, Pete Dicks, Vicki Sherman

Layout & Design: Catharine Snell Advertising Art: Effie Monson ©2010 Naylor, LLC. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the publisher. Georgia County Government is published monthly with a combined issue in May-June and November-December. Price per issue $1.50; Georgia County Government Yearbook is $50. Direct magazine subscription rate effective July 2006 is $45 per year for subscribers who are non-ACCG members. PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2010/ACG-M0310/9899

MARCH 2010


Association County Commissioners of Georgia


President JAN TANKERSLEY Bulloch County First Vice President LAMAR PARIS Union County

Second Vice President MELVIN DAVIS Oconee County

Third Vice President CLINTON PERRY Taylor County

Immediate Past President TOM McMICHAEL Houston County

Executive Director JERRY R. GRIFFIN

Census 2010: Partnership Effort Will Ensure a Complete Count in Georgia

Board of Managers 1st District MIKE COWAN, Whitfield County 2nd District MIKE BERG, Dawson County 3rd District KATHIE GANNON, DeKalb County 4th District EDDIE FREEMAN, Spalding County 5th District KEVIN LITTLE, Walton County 6th District C. BROOKS BAILEY, Pulaski County 7th District JOHN R. GRAHAM, Warren County 8th District TERRELL HUDSON, Dooly County 9th District D. M. MULLIS, Laurens County 10th District CHARLES LINGLE, Dougherty County 11th District JOYCE EVANS, Lowndes County 12th District JOHN McIVER, Liberty County Consolidated Government Representative HEIDI DAVISON, Athens-Clarke County


By Jan Tankersley President

At-Large DAVID GAULT, Jones County SAM HART, Bibb County CARLOS NELSON, Ware County SAM OLENS, Cobb County HELEN STONE, Chatham County Active Past Presidents CLARENCE BROWN, Bartow County JAMES HAM, Monroe County (also a NACo Board Member) BENJAMIN HAYWARD, Mitchell County O. D. NETTER, Ben Hill County Ex-Officio NACo Board Member: RICHARD ENGLISH, Troup County Section Presidents Attorneys’ Section: KAREN THOMAS, Gwinnett County Managers’/Administrators’ Section: DARRELL HAMPTON, Jackson County Clerks’ Section: KATHY ARP, Floyd County Service Program Chairs ACCG Insurance Program Representatives (IRMA) CHARLES NEWTON, McDuffie County Group Self Insurance Workers’ Compensation Fund (GSIWCF) WALTER L. SANDERS, Greene County Pension Representative H. JAY WALKER, Houston County

Officers serving through April 2010



Ensuring a complete count for Georgia requires an effective partnership effort among all levels of government.

pril 1, 2010 is U.S. Census Day, when every household is slated to return completed questionnaires documenting all household residents. This is one federal job that truly relies on state and local governments’ full participation in keeping with all intergovernmental partnership efforts, nowadays. Counties have been given tools for assistance in this important effort. ACCG has staunchly supported the Georgia Complete Count Committee authorized by Governor Perdue, and co-chaired by Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty and Governor’s Office of Workforce Development Director Debra Lyons. ACCG’s own Dave Wills is a member of the Governor’s Complete Count Committee Task Force, which assisted in the development of a plan to reach all Georgia citizens in all geographic areas. Local leaders are recognized by the Complete County Committee as instrumental to the success of Georgia’s Complete Count efforts. Now, too, officials have a valuable tool for the 2010 Census in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Georgia 2000 information system, which provides easy access to 2000 census data to help you focus on areas that need special attention. (See related feature in this issue, page 21.) An accurate census count is imperative for many reasons. According to Jacqueline Byers, director of research and outreach for the National Association of Counties (NACo), an accurate count of your jurisdiction’s population is essential if counties are to conduct democratic governance and deliver services efficiently and equitably. As county officials we already well realize the “first-responder” responsibilities that hinge on services put in place by local government. Emergency services must be provided to all residents within our jurisdictions, regardless of their status. Delivery of such services relies on

an accurate census count, Byers reminds. Such people include populations coming into our communities who often need many social services. We must do all we can to include everyone. The federal government has prepared for the 2010 Census for the past few years, with the U.S. Census Bureau working to enlist the involvement of local government officials since 2007. Federal census offices were opened in local communities in 2008 and local governments began reviewing address lists. The highest local elected officials were designated as Georgia’s Complete Count Committee leadership. At this writing, the 2010 Census publicity campaign has saturated the media, as has the state’s own efforts to publicize the census, and census takers are actively working in all communities. Forms are being mailed to every U.S. household beginning in early March. Population counts are due to the President on Dec. 31, 2010. Not only does each state’s census count determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, but an accurate count is also a deciding factor as the federal government distributes over $300 billion in grant funding to state, local and tribal governments. Dollars coming to any jurisdiction are directly tied to, and based on, 2010 Census population counts. Funding goes to health care and education programs and specialized assistance in many areas of public need. The 2010 Census data will also be used for federal reapportionment purposes, drawing district lines, land use planning, gauging a community’s workforce, and many other factors crucial to planning for a community’s best future. Data from an accurate census is perhaps more important this year, than ever, as local service demands go up and funding is extremely tight. Partner toolkits from the Census Bureau contain information and resources to communicate the importance of the census to key groups, tailored for each audience. If your community hasn’t taken advantage of these yet, please utilize these resources. I also urge you to utilize all the support offered by the Census Bureau and the Georgia Complete Count Committee, toward informing your public. Ensuring a complete count for Georgia, like much else, requires an effective partnership effort among all levels of government. ■

Congratulations Whitfield County

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For more information on the census efforts in Georgia go to


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CountyMatters Local Government is Not Just Another Special Interest Group

By Jerry Griffin Executive Director


or much of the past year, Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) has referred to local government’s important role in maintaining the society upon which we all depend. This responsibility entails all manner of activities to provide for the health, safety and welfare of citizens and to foster sustainable economic growth and the resulting benefits that brings to individual families. Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize the roles and responsibilities carried out by counties and cities. Counties, by and large, are the delivery arm of various, extremely vital state services. The state provides financial support for many of these services. However, in tough budget times when the state is looking for places to cut, state officials seem to forget that cutting support doesn’t diminish the needs.

Counties and cities provide vital services that keep society functioning, even if they are not recognized every day.

Nothing is more important to a community than public safety. The General Assembly can pass laws to make certain actions illegal or increase mandatory sentences, but the impact on public safety occurs through enforcement at the local level by police and sheriff’s deputies. While the Georgia State Patrol enforces some traffic laws, it reports to have an estimated 125 officers on patrol at any given time — meaning one state trooper for every 145 miles of state highway. Likewise, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assists with complex investigations as well as forensic support, but this state agency is also spread quite thin. Overall, public safety and law enforcement remain primarily local government functions. The enforcement of new laws can be very expensive, but the locals have to do what is required with local funding. Law enforcement is only the beginning. Once a crime is charged, the county jail comes into play. Then, there is the prosecution, the mandatory legal defense for any indigents, the courtrooms and their security, disposition of the case by the courts, and ultimately the penalty. Prosecutors are paid by the state, as is some of their staff. Some judges are paid by the state, but legislators are often generous with supplements (required by law) that counties must pay. Many of you remember Mike Stewart, who served as a county manager and an ACCG Government Relations Manager before deciding to join the efforts to help rebuild Iraq. Mike shared a story with me that underscored the vital role played by the services local governments provide. Mike is working as a Senior Government Advisor and Infrastructure Section Chief with the U.S. State Department in Iraq’s Diyala Province. He recently oversaw the construction of a new landfill. With the many struggles to stabilize this

nation, this task may seem very insignificant. But without the proper management of solid waste, public health is compromised. Mike has also worked on projects to deal with stormwater resulting from the occasional rain in the region. The solution may not look like the kind of remedy expected in this country, but removing the water from the streets so people can utilize them is a real improvement. Without the availability of the basic government services Americans often take for granted, it is difficult if not impossible to build a politically stable state or nation. Public safety, clean potable water, sewage removal and treatment, electricity, fuel, public health services and transportation are only a few of the things people must have before they can focus on other issues. In fact, General Stewart Rodeheaver, who led the Georgia National Guard in Iraq and spoke at ACCG’s annual meeting after returning, talked about how the Guard would restore electricity during the day only to have it destroyed each night by those that didn’t want the stability that would be achieved by having reliable power available. Iraqi insurgents obviously understood the danger that could result if people could trust government to provide basic services. Major disasters in this country result in similar situations much closer to home. After Hurricane Hugo struck South Carolina several years ago, the evening news showed fights developing as people tried to get ice. Counties and cities provide vital services that keep society functioning, even if they are not recognized every day. The totality of what local government does remains the foundation upon which our state and nation were built and not the other way around. ■ MARCH 2010



Whitfield County’s ‘Team Turnaround’ Visionary public and private sector leaders in this Northwest Georgia community have a heritage of industrial growth and innovation. After a dramatic shakeout, a silver lining has emerged in a partnership-driven economic turnaround initiative that could help close the door on recession. By Deborah Dewberry, Editor

The Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center is the only trade and convention center in Northwest Georgia. It features 143,000 sq. ft. of convention space, ballrooms, breakout meeting rooms and exhibit areas. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center.




hitfield County’s rise to the top of the world carpet industry is a vibrant legend in Georgia’s annals

The Conasauga River is one of the major surface water sources in Dalton and Whitfield County. Photo courtesy of Dalton Utilities.

of economic development. Advances in industrial machinery combined with new, durable materials like nylon and post-World War II entrepreneurial innovation created a fountainhead of commercial success in

the carpet industry’s heyday. Whitfield County and Dalton were the epicenter of this economic “gold rush.”

As the industry took off, thanks to waves of production improvements and growing markets, Whitfield County spent the better part of three decades welcoming a host of carpet industry players and their suppliers. Industry poured into the jurisdiction unbidden, and carpet industry growth was, in fact, likened to the previous century’s stampede for gold. There were so many jobs that people came not just from all over the state, but from surrounding states, the Midwest and Northeast, to work here. At their height, Northwest Georgia’s carpet companies had created an empire with global reach that few thought would ever let up. The presence of CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, and the allimportant I-75 corridor, combined with affordable electric rates and growing demand for specialized textiles fueled carpet as the floor covering industry’s all-time winner. Hindsight prompts industry observers now to see that fallout was inevitable. An industry shakeout gathered steam through 2005 and has come full circle now in the midst of the nation’s economic downturn. This recession has dramatically impacted housing, and — and by virtue of that, the carpet industry — resulting in steep declines in local employment for the past several years. Today, out of some 400 companies, only four carpet and floor covering “giants” remain — those that were large enough and managed with enough acumen to have expanded into areas they’d once relied on suppliers for, like finishing and dyeing. But even the big companies didn’t escape being jolted. Some of Georgia’s most serious job losses have been in this community, and Whitfield County’s

unemployment figures last year ranked among highest in the state. Overwhelming change, officials say, has followed textiles’ growth into a global enterprise. “Our textile industry has become a very highly mechanized, less people-dependent industry,” notes Elyse Cochran, executive director of the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority. “The number of jobs lost here — down from around 65,000 to 59,000 — seems dire. But these were scattered all over Northwest Georgia.” To coin Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquy, however, rumors of the local economy’s “death” may have been greatly exaggerated. Perhaps surprisingly since this has long been a seat of economic and industrial innovation, a silver lining has emerged. Today, phoenix-like, Whitfield County and Dalton are rising from the economic ashes.

Open for Business The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners is avidly business-minded, and has much in common with their community counterparts in local private industry. Led by Chairman Mike Babb, a longtime local businessman who served as chairman previously from 1998 through 2004, and returned in 2008, the BOC also includes ACCG Board of Managers member and 14-year veteran Commissioner Mike Cowan representing District 1; Harold Brooker, a businessman and farmer representing District 2; Randy Waskul, a former vice president and environmental engineer with Mohawk Industries representing

In this jurisdiction, a heritage of innovation, industrial might, economic growth and a strong sense of community character are readily apparent.

WHITFIELD COUNTY continued on page 10

MARCH 2010


WHITFIELD COUNTY continued from page 9 District 3; and farmer and real estate developer Greg Jones, representing District 4. County Administrator Robert S. McLeod, who relocated from Maryland, is responsible for day-to-day operation of all departments. “The remarkable events in the carpet industry have totally changed how our county does business,” says Chairman Babb. “Because the county did not have to recruit industries for many decades, learning how to compete — regionally and globally— became a fundamental to our survival the past few years.” Recognizing the need for the whole community to get on board with a turnaround plan for economic development, the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners formed strategic alliances with a consortium of leaders and citizens under the auspices of Grow Greater Dalton, a growth strategy involving participants from the county, the city of Dalton, the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority, and the DaltonWhitfield Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to compete for global investment while retaining industries established here; targeting compatible industries; and promoting quality-of-life, cultural and workforce prospects, with an eye for diversifying economic investment.

Success has been measurable. In fact, Whitfield County has a newly-minted reputation overseas for having exactly what foreign investment is looking for — and is now on a global “short list” of U.S. communities most recognized as desirable for U.S. headquarters operations. “We’re now highly recognized in the state as being among the most competitive for new business,” asserts Chuck Dobbins, director of Corporate Assets for Shaw Industries and board chairman of the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority. “When companies seek new locations, they find some distinct advantages in Whitfield County. For example, we have some of the lowest property taxes in the state and a ready and experienced workforce. Plus, we’re a business-friendly community dedicated, as partners, to community prosperity.” A credo the Board of Commissioners and the Development Authority like to use to sum it up, says Chairman Babb, is “Dalton and Whitfield County are open for business.” It didn’t happen overnight. Whitfield County and the city of Dalton formed a Joint Development Authority four years ago to proactively pursue economic development comparable to regional

jurisdictions competing well for incoming industry, including Chattanooga, Rome and Floyd County, and Cartersville and Bartow County. Working with the new Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority, the county made a $2.5 million investment in infrastructure and incentives for a commerce park. In 2008, to ensure a community economic “turn-around,” the Grow Greater Dalton initiative of the DaltonWhitfield Chamber of Commerce and the Joint Development Authority was formed. Conceived in 2008 to build the community’s economic base, Grow Greater Dalton was seen as needed by community leaders as the recession “drove home” a requirement for public and private sector leaders to join together in boosting the community’s ability to compete with others in the region. “These other jurisdictions — Chattanooga, Bartow and Floyd County — had competed all along,” Babb points out. “They had aggressive economic development campaigns in place for years. “Now,” notes Dobbins, “Grow Greater Dalton is making great progress toward its goal of implementing a world-class economic development marketing and recruitment program.” Indeed, underpinning all success, the Grow Greater Dalton initiative is making strides among dynamic local strategies conceived by community leaders to turn things around. The initiative continues to log successes marketing the community as an ideal location for incoming business, and as a great environment for in-place industry. With strong support from the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and the city of Dalton, the initiative is actively bringing together locations and infrastructure required by new or expanding businesses, and then marketing the greater Dalton area to targeted site selection consultants and corporate executives globally.

Payoff Arrives With three years of groundwork laid, a payoff arrived when the community attracted IVC U.S., a worldwide vinyl The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners include (from left): Harold Brooker, Randy Waskul, Chairman Mike Babb, Greg Jones, and Mike Cowan. 10


WHITFIELD COUNTY continued on page 13

Dedicated to

INVESTING in Economic

GROWTH Dalton Utilities is at the forefront of Dalton and Whitfield County’s economic development efforts, providing electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications – most at the lowest rates in Georgia – to customers in a five county region. Dalton Utilities is constantly looking to the future… researching ways to provide innovative services that will meet customer and future needs in an efficient, affordable and environmentally-friendly manner.


electric © natural gas © water © wastewater © cable tv © phone © internet © broadband

WHITFIELD COUNTY continued from page 10 flooring manufacturer in late summer 2009. The company announced its plans to invest $70 million over three years to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility here. Initially, 115 jobs would be created, to operate a 520,000 sq. ft. plant, slated to open in late 2011. Landing IVC was a “game-maker” coup for the county and the region, according to Dobbins, putting the jurisdiction on the “map” as an attractive location for foreign investment. “Attracting IVC also signaled to economic developers across the globe that

Greater Dalton is at a new place today — poised to attract new industry at a time when our primary industry continues to struggle in the current economy.” The company, prior to making the investment, already operated a distribution warehouse near Dalton’s south bypass, adds County Administrator Bob McLeod. The new IVC facility will operate the largest high-end vinyl manufacturing line in the world in Whitfield County and has expressed confidence in the future of the product.

Dalton Utilities a Partner in Local Progress Elected officials in Whitfield sources include rivers, creeks County, Dalton-Whitfield County and springs; four drought Development Authority members contingency reservoirs and the Chamber of Commerce with a total of 2.69 billion all recognize the advantages that gallons; and wholesale water the primary local utility, Dalton interconnections with the Utilities, lends to economic Tennessee River and other development efforts and overall sources. With almost 70 million quality of life issues in the gallons per day (MGD) of water community. Actively engaged in capacity — much of which is activities of the Dalton-Whitfield available for new business and Development Authority, the industry, Dalton Utilities’ water Archway Partnership, and Grow system is a reliable source of Greater Dalton, Dalton Utilities provides over 65,000 business and residential customers in Dalton and portions of Whitfield, Murray, Gordon, Catoosa and Floyd counties Dalton Utilities operates Haig Mill Reservoir with electric, in Whitfield County. natural gas, water and sewer services. The high-quality water quality with company’s favorable utility water treatment and distribution rates, some of the lowest in systems recognized by the Southeast, have helped the numerous industry awards. county compete for business, Dalton Utilities’ officials assert. telecommunications arm, The company operates an OptiLink, also offers cable extensive water system, with television, telephone, internet and careful attention to planning broadband services to homes for the region’s long-term and commercial customers over needs. Multiple raw water a 100 percent fiberoptic network.

At a celebration of the announcement, IVC officials announced that though the floor covering industry had “nosedived” in recent years, the vinyl market is likely to “grow fast” when recovery gets a foothold. The 44-acre site of the new manufacturing facility is proximal to the bypass. For their part, Whitfield County had not only purchased the land for the site, but also funded the infrastructure to develop the site. In addition, Dalton Utilities is funding a new electrical substation to service the project. IVC U.S. will not pay property taxes on the project investment for its first five years. Beginning in year six, IVC will pay partial property taxes increasing each year until year 11 when the project will be fully taxed. The company’s payroll will exceed $2.4 million in the first year. If anyone claims these are steep concessions, officials are quick to clarify the benefits. McLeod adds that Georgia jurisdictions have to go the extra mile providing incentives to compete with surrounding states, which do not tax energy usage, as Georgia does. As Cochran points out, “All our incentive offers are met with jobs created in the community, long-term investment and wages. The criteria an incoming industry must meet to get these incentives are also substantial, and we hold them to these criteria. They essentially have an agreement with the Development Authority, which undertakes a bond transaction to benefit the company.” Currently, the Development Authority has some 12 active projects to locate major industry in the county. Grow Greater Dalton entails a four-year strategy begun in 2009, including public and private pledges of $6.1 million for community and economic development purposes. “Through Grow Greater Dalton, the Development Authority has collaborated on a strategic plan targeting certain industries — automotive suppliers to leverage German automaker Volkswagen’s landmark $1 billion investment in Chattanooga; Wacker Chemical, a global chemical company specializing in solar panels, in neighboring Cleveland, Tenn.; plastics and chemical makers; and WHITFIELD COUNTY continued on page 15 MARCH 2010


WHITFIELD COUNTY continued from page 13 also an international community. Our school systems have made incredible strides and are an asset to the community. We believe we offer the best to people who want to live and work here.”

Tourism, Related Plans

Whitfield County Administrator Robert McLeod (left) and Commission Chairman Mike Babb go over a schematic illustration of the planned Westside industrial park.

advanced manufacturing operations of all types,” says Dobbins, chairman of the initiative. Other commercial and economic development plans will support the vision of “the big picture” for the community’s future, the branding of DaltonWhitfield County as the place “Where Inspiration Lives.” “The Development Authority’s primary goal is to encourage investment that boosts our tax digest and the per capita income here,” Dobbins points out. “In keeping is Grow Greater Dalton’s strategic plan in five business sectors, mostly compatible with our current infrastructure and available labor force.” The Board of Commissioners continues to demonstrate its commitment to investment and growth. Recently, Whitfield County decided to buy land for a major new business park, located between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and envisioned as the only site with visibility off I-75. The first phase of this key initiative calls for 270 acres, with phase two to add an additional 200 acres. An expansion of Dalton State College now under way is expected to add more advantages for incoming business, and is now being utilized by IVC to train workers for the substantial floor covering operation planned. In recognition of the

importance of demonstrating to potential companies that the community has a readily available trained workforce, the community anticipates being Georgia WorkReady designated in the near term.

Growth and the Economy The population in Dalton and Whitfield County, currently estimated at some 95,000, has remained relatively stable in the past 10 years. Officials attribute the modest growth to economic impacts to the carpet and floor covering industries. Babb and Dobbins express the impetus of the whole community to “work as partners” toward making a successful transition, on all fronts, out of the economic recession that has affected all facets of life here. “We have this heritage as an importer of jobs, but now businesses are much more consolidated. We are more focused on growing white collar jobs here now, than ever in previous history. We still have a huge industrial base—over 60,000 jobs are still available here—and we need people to live here, and commute here, to work. This way, we can keep our tax base strong,” Dobbins adds. Retaining professionals to live and work in the community, and attracting them, is among the priorities, notes McLeod. Dobbins elaborates, “We are

Dobbins and Babb say leaders here view tourism as having significant untapped potential, which makes this a major focus for ongoing economic development plans. Dalton and Whitfield County’s most recent tourism development, notes Dobbins, builds on the region’s colorful railroad history, its rich Confederate and Civil War heritage, and the importance of the Cherokee Indian nation which inhabited the region prior to European settlements. “War Comes to Dalton” is a new driving tour of Dalton and Whitfield County developed to introduce tourists to the jurisdiction’s Civil War heritage. As the location of a primary north-south rail line, the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Dalton and Whitfield County quickly became a center of activity serving the Confederacy, until Union occupation. The famous 1862 Great Locomotive Chase took place in the region, and Whitfield County became a “hospital zone” for the Confederate wounded, with nine hospitals and numerous local churches and private residences serving as medical and convalescent centers. Finally, the community found itself hosting the Confederate Army of Tennessee, then as the first site assailed in the Atlanta Campaign of General W. T. Sherman. The driving tour chronicles each experience and is organized to highlight the opening of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, following Sherman’s route from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The tour dovetails with others in the area revisiting the campaign, roughly over the path that I-75 follows. An elaborate, illustrated guide and CD narrate six key stops and many others, from Tunnel Hill and Buzzard’s Roost Gap to the Confederate Cemetery and the Western & Atlantic Train Depot. To expand convention business, commissioners and the Development WHITFIELD COUNTY continued on page 17 MARCH 2010


Dalton City Hall

West Hill Chapel

Heritage Park Baseball Field

Carpet Capital of the World

Carpe Capital CITY OF DALTON P.O. Box 1205 Dalton, GA 30722 706.278.9500

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16 446291_Dalton.indd GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT 1

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WHITFIELD COUNTY continued from page 15 Authority are also excited about revitalization of the Northwest Georgia Trade Center, management for which has been assigned to a national firm, Global Spectrum. “Global Spectrum is No. 2 nationally in the operation of stadiums, arenas and trade centers,” Dobbins says. “We expect this to be a tremendous community resource.”

Broader Growth Initiative Goals Grow Greater Dalton’s long-term mission is ambitious—to “transform” the community’s economic future, creating over 3,200 jobs and $190 million in new capital investment. These jobs are anticipated to generate $128 million annually in increased wages and over $1 billion yearly for the local gross domestic product. Leadership is under the auspices of an Investors Council governing the initiative, headed by Grow Greater Dalton General Chairman John P. Neal, III and Brian Anderson, president and CEO of the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce. The campaign’s cabinet co-chairs, including Chairman Babb and Shaw’s Dobbins, are community leaders who express a common stake in improving prosperity and the quality of life in the community. Expansion of the “Inspiration Lives Here” marketing campaign to promote the community brand awareness is also being pursued. Under a Retain and Expand Jobs initiative, an existing industry coordinator will be hired by the Development Authority and will be responsible for pursuing new jobs among the largest existing businesses, and many other objectives to meet the needs of existing businesses.

Whitfield County has a newly-minted reputation overseas for having exactly what foreign investment is looking for.

North Hamilton, one of the many streets commercially revitalized through the Dalton Main Street Program.

Archway Partnership One initiative Grow Greater Dalton officials are especially excited about involves participating as Georgia’s eighth Archway Partnership Community with the University System of Georgia, including a full-time position for an Archway Partnership Manager funded by the University System and Grow Greater Dalton. Under the Archway program, leaders anticipate creating a new vision for the community that includes attracting young professionals, boosting entrepreneurial leadership, creating a competitive range of health care options, elevating educational achievement in the community, expanding housing, fostering a competitive business climate and enhancing cultural elements. The community’s investment will be $60,000 annually, while the University System will fund $200,000 annually. “Archway is one of the work efforts of the Grow Greater Dalton initiative. It’s a great opportunity to do the kind of community visioning that contributes to long-term quality of life,” McLeod notes. The Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce also has a public component in the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield

Program. “This is the ‘community version’ of Leadership Georgia, and 800 local citizens have gone through the program,” notes Dobbins. “We take the leadership group through all facets of what makes the community work. It’s had outstanding participation.” The program only accepts 30 candidates per year and there currently is a waiting list to participate.

SPLOST and Other Improvements Though formal consolidation between the city and the county isn’t on the table, a move has been on for the past couple of years to consolidate many services between Whitfield County and the city of Dalton. A $47 million special-purpose localoption sales tax (SPLOST) is funding transportation projects, such as intersection and road improvements, as well as an all-new road off the Dalton bypass, a “loop” project considered critical. In addition, 138 roads have been resurfaced since 2008. The county continues to work with the city for other service consolidation. So far, they have combined building inspections and code enforcement, WHITFIELD COUNTY continued on page 18 MARCH 2010


WHITFIELD COUNTY continued from page 17 planning and zoning, road maintenance, and municipal courts. They also have worked together to create the Greater Dalton Metropolitan Planning Organization, are funding an evaluation of fire services and are planning for coordinated parks and recreation. A general fund-subsidized parks program will benefit from a Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which has enabled acquisition of 100 acres for $1.1 million in the western part of the county for one new park, according to Administrator McLeod. An additional $1.9 million will be needed to develop a Miracle Field® complex. This field accommodates wheel chairs and features handicappedaccessible ball fields, an adjacent playground and more. A donations program will assist with operating costs. The county also, in late 2009, began operating a Whitfield County Transit Program, which has experienced increased ridership and further investment in financial operations. Officials are proud that the system garnered the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Frank J. Hill Service Award, as the best rural transit system in the state. Whitfield County’s Emergency Management operations are also coordinating with regional Emergency Management operations in the Tennessee Valley beyond Knoxville and to reach as far south as metro Atlanta, with an 800 megahertz system.

Education Goals Education SPLOSTs have been in effect here, consecutively, since the mid-1990s, and several new elementary schools have resulted. A new high school is slated for the northern end of the county, closer to Chattanooga, in anticipation of a wave of growth from the incoming Volkswagen plant; and the city of Dalton is undertaking expansions of all schools in the city’s system. Besides the ongoing thrust to provide ideal schools, several of which have earned the prestigious International Baccalaureate curriculum designation, educational priorities here include a push with Dalton State College to pursue accreditation of the state four-year program as a full member of the University System of Georgia. A new residential 18


A statue of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston overlooks downtown Dalton. Behind the statue, the Wink Theatre, now converted into part of a local church.

campus is expanding course offerings in the college, which at 5,000-plus students has exceeded its target enrollment goals. Degree programs at the college may be earned in Education, Business, Social Studies, Nursing, Allied Medical, and Mathematics.

lines countywide, and is currently set to expand lines into the northern end. The Board of Commissioners gave the utility $1 million to extend sewer service to the area, seen as crucial to “opening up” the area that could see the brunt of growth when the Volkswagen plant is operational.

Environmental and Infrastructure Needs

Outlook Positive

Whitfield County’s water resources rely on the Conasauga River, primarily, and secondarily, the Tennessee River, the drainage basin of which encompasses the jurisdiction. Dalton Utilities is the primary water and sewerage system operator, and is tied in with the east side of Chattanooga Water System, which draws from the Tennessee River. The county worked with Dalton Utilities between 1998 and 2004 to extend

Officials here express an outlook that is remarkably bright for a jurisdiction having come through much economic upheaval with keystone industries. “We never did see ourselves at risk of losing our primary industry,” notes Elyse Cochran. “Carpet now is simply much more automated. The old technology died — we took those economic conditions into a transition of our own.”

“The carpet industry is really doing all it can, too, to be sustainable,” Babb and McLeod point out. “As the movement for recycled content of things like polyester carpet and nylon backing grows, these industries are forging ahead to dramatically reduce post-industrial waste. Currently, 50 percent of all polyester carpet comes from recycled bottles,” notes McLeod. “Energy-efficiency, closed loop water systems and incentives to provide LEEDS-appropriate building materials are being pursued by Shaw Industries, Mohawk, Beaulieu, and others. That consumers find such ‘green products’ appealing is an incentive, and an opportunity for growth.” Dobbins adds that it’s a misperception, too, that the carpet industries want to “keep diversification out of DaltonWhitfield County.” A good thing, indeed, as leaders brace for what could be a tidal wave of interest that will place new demands on roads, not to mention environmental infrastructure, schools and housing.

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“There’s no more attractive lifestyle available than here,” asserts McLeod. “We still have a bona fide ‘country’ feel, fantastic scenery, low property taxes and an affordable cost of living.” Leaders believe construction in the county’s northern end will pick up substantially in the near term, to meet the needs of a probable influx of people here to work at the Volkswagen plant, or in league with suppliers that follow the plant. Community leaders have joined a coalition with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, with which they meet semi-monthly, in anticipation of meeting needs relative to an anticipated burst of suppliers expected to follow the automotive plant. Finally, one can’t help but observe that in this jurisdiction with such a heritage of innovation, industrial might and economic growth, a strong sense of community character appears indelible. “We’re a philanthropic community,” says Dobbins. “We’ve got great community involvement by the private sector and a broad group of industrial and

other leaders who care deeply about the community’s future. Our citizens are involved, too.” All are community partners in turning the economic picture around, and the common stakeholders all acknowledge the importance of working together. “We’re pushing for progress despite our 12 percent unemployment rate. We still have some 60,000 people working in our community, and that’s a lot. In 2005 and 2006, we had jobs that couldn’t be filled — service jobs that needed people. Now it’s shifted, and it only seems worse for us because once, we had it so good.” By all accounts, with such leadership and strategic planning in place to market the community, retain current investment and diversify businesses here, Dalton and Whitfield County still have it good. And it’s certain to get better. ■

Look for more extended coverage of this story in the MarchCountyLine e-newsletter.

MARCH 2010 1/21/10 19 4:04:13 PM

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Up for the Count Georgia 2000 Database Helps Counties Achieve Census Success By Warren Brown and Mathew Hauer, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia


ith the 2010 census just around the corner, county gov-

or specific census tracts within individual counties, ernment and community leaders are working hard to he adds. Hard-to-count populations fall into three raise public awareness and maximize participation. But categories: economically disadvantaged, unathow can they help ensure an accurate census count that tached/mobile singles, and high-density ethnic areas. “While officials are certainly familiar with sets up their community for success in the next decade? the make-up of their county, having the ability to look at a map that shows exactly where problem census counts Now officials have a valuable tool that allows them to take a look occurred in 2000 can provide them with specific guidance for back in order to look ahead to their 2010 complete count activities. channeling their efforts and resources,” Hauer says. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Georgia 2000 informaAdditional census planning information will be added to tion system provides easy access to and viewing of data from the Georgia 2000 as it becomes available. Check the sidebar for 2000 census that can help them focus on areas that need special details on accessing the system. ■ attention. Georgia county officials are already aware of how census counts For more information, contact Warren Brown at can directly affect their communities. Census data is vital to local or Matthew Hauer at or call (706) 542-2736. leaders in planning the allocation of resources ranging from elementary schools to senior citizen services. Census counts are used in decisions to distribute over 400 billion dollars in federal funding each year to support projects in such areas as transportation, E.R.SNELL human services, and education. It is estimated that each person not CONTRACTOR, INC. counted may be worth almost $3,400 in lost funding over a decade. Private investors rely on census demographics for decisions related to relocation and subsequent economic development. Georgia 2000 features reports of demographic, socioeconomic, manufacturing, labor, and education data that are accessible ROADS through menu selections or interactive maps. & “The recent addition of the census planning database to GeorBRIDGES gia 2000 allows users to view maps depicting the response rates to ROADS * BRIDGES * CULVERTS * SITE WORK the mail portion of the 2000 census as well as scores for what are ASPHALT PAVING * ASPHALT SALES * PARKING LOTS termed hard-to-count populations,” explains Matt Hauer, faculty member with the Institute’s Applied Demography Program. The COMMERCIAL * INDUSTRIAL * MUNICIPAL maps may be tailored to depict entire regions, like the Southeast,


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Bringing Preparedness to Your Community By Charley English, Director, Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Homeland Security


n the wake of a disaster, citizens count on public servants and elected officials to provide safety and comfort when their lives are turned upside down. Establishing temporary shelters or lending the shoulder to cry on is a key piece of recovery. But these activities are preceded by the most critical step in an effective response effort, which is the advance planning and preparation that officials establish and test long before the skies darken or the rivers rise.

Commissioners can get ahead of the game by committing to community preparedness. As most Americans witnessed in response to Hurricane Katrina, citizens expect elected officials

or political appointees to quickly comprehend and assess the magnitude of disaster situations. While Katrina was a unique event, it clearly underscores how important it is for every official to be

knowledgeable about disaster preparedness and recovery. Because disasters can be unpredictable, the first key step is to establish decision-making processes and a chain

Flooding episodes in the western metro Atlanta region affected neighborhoods and the theme park, Six Flags Over Georgia. 22


of command that is resilient and can withstand shocks and the unknown. “The catastrophe you prepare for is never the one you get” is a well-known saying among risk management professionals, and clearly the same goes for disaster preparedness. But that doesn’t mean you can sit idly or expect to get quickly up to speed in a trial by fire. One way to prepare is to talk with fellow commissioners who have experienced significant disasters. We at GEMA/ Homeland Security work on a daily basis to combat disasters and know that good preparation often means the difference between life and death. Just ask Gary Rice, Area 2 field coordinator, GEMA, about his experience with last spring’s widespread flooding in southwest Georgia, which caused $60 million in damage to public infrastructure and resulted in a federal disaster declaration for 46 counties. Thanks to advance preparation by officials in his 23-county area, roads and bridges were quickly accessible enabling communities to return to normal. Georgia was inundated with floods again in September 2009. “Mother Nature does not always follow the rules,” says Sheri Russo, Area 7 field coordinator, GEMA. “Last September’s flooding was the worst I have seen in metro Atlanta, but the first responders did an excellent job.” Sheri added that the floods were not anticipated or forecasted, so it’s critical that individuals and local government officials have a plan in place and stay informed about the situation as it develops so that evacuation decisions can be made quickly. This event caused $500 million of damage and took 10 lives. Georgia counties were able to recover more rapidly because of their planning cycle, which is aided by the support of the GEMA. As part of our ongoing work, we help county officials conduct assessments of what threats could potentially harm their residents and encourage them to communicate and coordinate this review with local law enforcement and other public safety officials, fire and hospitals. GEMA also offers its Ready Georgia campaign to provide Georgians with the tools and resources necessary to prepare, plan and stay informed about potential threats in our state. Community leaders are encouraged to take

advantage of the online toolkit found at to plan preparedness events and introduce residents to the campaign. Both flooding events highlight key steps officials should take to prepare before a disaster strikes. First, make the effort to communicate to your constituents how important advance preparation is on an individual and family basis. Safety and recovery is everybody’s responsibility, so residents need to know about the potential emergencies that could happen where they live, how they will be notified, and the appropriate way to respond to them. Coordination among local, state, and federal officials also is key. In particular, local emergency agency directors and GEMA field coordinators understand it is important that officials know in advance what actions they need to take and what decisions they need to make as the impact of a disaster spreads and escalates. This shortens the decision-making timeframe, the velocity of which can speed up and overwhelm a generally calm and measured response from local officials. Each county is required to have an approved Local Emergency Operations Plan (LEOP), and local EMA directors are held accountable for ensuring this is a living, working document, revising it as needed and testing it through drills and exercises. Elected officials should be familiar with this plan so they can support the implementation by the local EMA director. Local officials also need to provide essential space and equipment for the EMA director to function at a high level for extended periods of time. Everyone in the community has a role in disaster preparedness and response – individuals, volunteer agencies and faith-based organizations. However, local government often must drive the preparedness message and collaborative activities so that collectively, we are prepared to provide basic human needs to our residents in their times of need. Georgia’s emergency management professionals are well-versed in

their duties and day-to-day activities. But given the considerable amount of uncertainty about whether a disaster will ever affect you or your government, top officials, such as commissioners and council members, also need to be well versed and drilled in advance too. By doing so, officials are simply exercising good civic planning and obtaining knowledge that is bound to come in handy, given that Georgia has experienced 28 federally declared disasters since 1991 and hundreds of local- and state-declared emergencies. Most recently, floods literally cascaded from one small river to another until many roads and bridges were washed out, hampering the rescue and cleanup effort. What began simply as heavy unseasonal rains quickly spilled into a full-blown disaster. In addition, tornadoes terrorized both rural and urban areas in Georgia’s recent history claiming lives and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Prior to joining GEMA, I learned a valuable lesson in family preparedness when Ronda, my wife, and I found ourselves homebound without electricity for several days during a pounding snowstorm in 1993. Not only were we stuck, but Ronda was 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. Fortunately, we had almost everything we needed to survive packed in our Ready kit – except labor and delivery items. Our porch became our refrigerator and freezer when we packed our perishable items in snow and ice and stored them out there. Luckily, our unborn son waited until the storm passed to join us, but it was a good lesson on the importance of being prepared. Always remember the crisis communication maxim: Unrehearsed is unprepared. Once you have a plan, you must remember, it is just that: A plan. The implementation details, the overlooked but critical components, the small items that make a difference … all of these could be missing. However, you will not know until a plan is rehearsed and tested in the most rigorous fashion. ■ Charley English is director of GEMA/ Homeland Security. He has worked at GEMA/Homeland Security since 1996. MARCH 2010


TheBottomLine Cost Cutting Considerations for Your County By Michele NeSmith, Director of Policy Development and Research, ACCG


imes are tough for all levels of government, nationally. Georgia economists are predicting that signs of recovery won’t be seen until 2011. To continue weathering this economic crisis, counties need to find a way to make their dollars stretch further, still. Even after significant budget cuts, many still need to make more reductions. Despite the challenges, there are cost saving measures that counties can implement. The most effective budget cuts will come from a review of your county’s operations, assessing all programs and departments, total workforce, management practices, and all expenditures. Although this process will take time, the savings may be significant.

in the elimination of a joint program that now must be paid for exclusively by the county. When seeking to cut program costs, it is worthwhile to meet with the regional commission in your district to determine if this organization can administer the program regionally. This would allow the taxpayers in your county to benefit from the program, while spreading the cost over multiple counties. A sound review of programs and departments may reveal duplication of services, underutilization of employees, programs that may be eliminated and services that may be outsourced. Implementing policies to provide efficiencies in any of these areas can lead to big savings for your county.

Reviewing Programs and Departments

Reduction in Workforce

It may be tempting to make acrossthe-board cuts, but in the long run it can actually harm departments that provide essential services. Although services like parks and recreation are popular, cutting these at the same level as essential services such as public safety may lead to cross purposes. For example, maintaining the same hours for parks and recreational areas, yet not being able to provide adequate security may increase crime in these areas, limiting public access and increasing the burden on law enforcement. It is necessary to review each department separately and to determine cuts based on the public need for the services of each department. In considering program reductions, it is vital to review the funding sources for all programs. Some programs receive funding through the state or federal government that require a county match or minimum funding level. Cutting funding for these programs could actually increase costs for the county if it results

One of the largest costs for counties is personnel. There are a number of ways that counties can reduce personnel cost. Implementing furloughs or hiring freezes, eliminating vacant positions, reducing salaries, increasing employee contribution for healthcare and defined benefits, offering early retirement, revising pension programs and imposing layoffs all offer solutions. However, while eliminating or reducing staff positions and benefits, there are essential factors to consider. The first step when considering cuts to your workforce is to evaluate the entire labor structure to determine any duplication of duties, evaluate overtime usage, review the number and purpose of staff for each department including any consultants or temporary staff, and appraise the cost drivers for employee benefits. It may be helpful to use workload indicators to better identify targeted reductions and to appropriately budget staff for each county department.



Another helpful aid is the Wage and Salary survey provided by the Department of Community Affairs at Secondly, before implementing workforce reductions, it is advisable to understand potential legal ramifications. Not all employees are equal in this area and depending on their age, classification, and terms of employment, you may be limited in how you want to implement this type of policy. The person in charge of human resources should consult with the county attorney before implementation. Third, it is necessary to evaluate the cost to your county to implement such policies versus the cost savings that the policy will provide. If your county chooses to implement early retirement, for instance, do you have adequate staff in place to provide retirement consultation if a large number of staff decide to take it? If not, you will bear the expense of bringing in new, temporary staff for this purpose. Additionally, depending on what is being offered through early retirement and the number of takers that you have, you may realize immediate cost savings, but incur major increases in future years. Many counties have implemented furloughs to help reduce costs. Although this may appear to be an easy solution, there are quite a few factors that need to be evaluated before implementation. Depending on the type of employee in question to be furloughed there are certain regulations that must be followed

regarding their employment status. For example, a full-time employee is treated differently than a part-time employee. Additional decisions will need to be made regarding who should be furloughed, whether furloughs should be voluntary or mandatory, if furlough days should be staggered or implemented on a department or countywide basis, and how to balance the workload to accommodate furloughs. Note that county commissioners cannot implement furloughs that impact county constitutional officers. Further, when implementing department or county wide furloughs it may also be necessary to consult with the county attorney to ensure that you are not violating any state law requirements regulating the operations of county offices.

Office Operations In reviewing where to cut cost for office operations, it is necessary to audit routine expenditures such as cell phone and landline uses, office and janitorial supplies, publications and memberships. Many publications, such as newspapers and certain magazines are now

available free, online. Membership fees can either be negotiated down or eliminated. Office and janitorial supplies may be procured at a lower cost if bought in bulk or through a different vendor. Many telecommunications companies offer bundled packages that allow you to get a better deal on landline, internet and cell phone services. These type of services need to be reviewed periodically to determine if you are still getting the best rate. Limiting travel for county staff can also cut costs. With today’s technological advances, it is no longer necessary for people to be in the same room to meet. Further, encouraging staff to satisfy training requirement via “webinars” creates additional savings. If employees must travel, consider carpooling or renting vehicles. It can actually be cheaper to authorize renting a car than to pay employees the federal standard mileage reimbursement rate. Also, limit when county vehicles can be driven and set policies regarding their use. Save energy costs by switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent

lighting. Bulbs may cost more upfront, but they last up to ten times longer than traditional bulbs, use one-fourth the energy, and produce 99 percent less heat. Other easy cost savings measures include keeping the thermostat down, turning off lights and powering down computers when not in use and ensuring that all faucets are completely off when not in use. These measures add up. At the end of the day, each county will have to make the choices that best suit their particular situation. Sound decisions will result from evaluating current operating expenses, organizational structure, and workforce and determining what can be reduced or altered to best serve your constituents. ■ For more information contact Michele NeSmith at or (404) 522-5022.

Look for more extended coverage of this story in the MarchCountyLine e-newsletter.

MARCH 2010


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COUNTY GOVERNMENTS Whitfield County Board of Commissioners ..... 12

MUNICIPALITIES City of Dalton................................................16

ATTORNEYS Gray & Pannell, LLP ......................................20

DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITIES Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority..............................14

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ENGINEERING Brown and Caldwell ......................................20

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ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS Brown and Caldwell ......................................20 Golder Associates .........................................20 FINANCIAL SERVICES BB+T Capital Markets...................................20 HEALTHCARE Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority .................................................20

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITIES Dalton-Whitfield Regional Solid Waste Management Authority .............................19 TRADE & CONVENTION CENTERS Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center ....................................26 UTILITIES Dalton Utilities .............................................. 11 Georgia Transmission Corporation ...................6

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GOVERNMENT ALSO INSIDE: • County Cost-Cutting Measures MARCH 2010 Strength & Stability Government & Institutional Banki...

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