Development Authority tables marketing idea

Jan. 24—Baldwin County officials have approached the Development Authority of Milledgeville and Baldwin County (DAMBC) about taking part in a program along with the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The program is called "Viewpoints."

"It is a miniature documentary about the community," according to DAMBC Executive Director Jonathan Jackson.

He said he invited Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar to the meeting to discuss the program further.

"As I understand it, it would be a really short piece about Baldwin County that's produced by an organization called Viewpoints," Jackson said. "It features narration or presentation by Dennis Quaid, an actor. It runs on news channels and promotes communities."

Tobar said the local presentation about the county would also be placed online.

"It's a $28,000 expense," Tobar said. "CVB has committed $2,500. This is not our area of expertise."

He said he told officials with both the DAMBC and CVB that if they thought the program would be valuable, that he believes such would be a good investment.

"But again, that's up to you, if you think that national exposure would be of value," Tobar said.

Sharon Seymour, who serves as chairwoman of the DAMBC, wanted to know whether or not the DAMBC would be responsible for the cost balance of the program.

Tobar told her he would request that the county commission pay the remaining balance after other contributions.

"...[I]s this sort of what [actor] Jeff Daniels did the voiceovers for Michigan and Detroit, is that kind of the idea to have the name that everybody knows — a voice that everybody knows — that's what is behind it," asked Kevin Brown, who serves as legal counsel to the DAMBC board.

Tobar agreed, noting he had talked with a mayor in Massachusetts whose city participated in the program.

"They said they were very excited with the results," Tobar said. "They thought it was worth it."

The county manager said there was also a 30-second exposure on CNN and FOX Business News.

"I'm not a big fan of these kinds of things, personally," said Derek Williams, who serves as vice chairman of the DAMBC board. "I think you can throw a lot of money at it and it's not very targeted at all."

Greg Tyson, who serves as treasurer of the board, said he wasn't sure if the Sibley-Smith Industrial Park needed to be marketed yet.

Ed Walker, another board member, said he guessed that one benefit would be that the promo would be available for a link to be put on the DAMBC's website to share with prospects.

"But from the national exposure, what's that window of time that there's going to be some national exposure," Walker asked. "Is it just on a particular night that it's going to be on CNN and that's it or is there going to be some repetition with continued exposure or continued reference to it."

Tobar said he couldn't answer the question.

Williams asked about how many communities had gone forward and participated in the program.

"I saw on the website that there have been about a dozen or so," Tobar said.

Tyrone Evans, another board member, said he would be interested in whether they could collaborate with the city and county as far as sharing in the cost of it.

"It's benefitting everyone, so therefore everyone should share in the cost of it," Evans said.

The board later decided to table the subject until a later date.

The board also discussed a request from Baldwin County officials to provide a preliminary engineering report for the entrance road to the Sibley-Smith Industrial Park.

"This is something that has to be done," Jackson said.

The executive director said he had received a quote from Ralph Forbes, of Thomas and Hutton, who said such work generally runs between $3,500 to $4,500, if existing environmental reports can be used.

"I suggest that we do it, but we authorize an amount higher than the $4,500 in case supplemental environmentals have to be done, so we can enter the next funding cycle through a grant."

Jackson said he believes such grants can yield funding of up to $500,000.

"This is your ticket to the ball," said Tobar, who attended the meeting along with Commission Vice Chairman Johnny Westmoreland. "Regardless of what funding source we pursue, if you don't have that preliminary engineering report, you're going nowhere."

DAMBC vice chairman Williams asked what figure board members should go with as it relates to the entrance road to the county's newest industrial park.

Jackson recommended between $7,500 and $10,000.

"As Carlos pointed out, this is step one to get where we need to be," Williams said. "So, we may as well plan to do it."

He then made a motion to approve it. The motion was seconded by board member Tyrone Evans.

Walker asked Tobar a follow-up question before a vote was taken.

"What is the typical cycle time in terms of once that's in place and everything is submitted that we would know where we stand," Walker questioned.

Tobar said with the bipartisan infrastructure laws there are several funding sources out there with different timelines.

"Are we thinking 90 days, or six months," Walker asked.

Tobar predicted it would be between nine months to a year before an answer was received.

"But in terms of submitting them and requesting funding, that will happen relatively soon — within 30 days," Tobar said.

Brown suggested that the board not do a Phase 1 until Tobar pulls the trigger since its only good for 180 days.

It would prevent the board from having to go back and do it again.

The motion was later approved.

DAMBC treasurer Tyson discussed financial matters, as well as invoices with fellow board members.

On the financial end, Tyson provided a report for December 2022 and January 2023 since the board did not meet in December.

Tyson said there was more detailed information regarding financials in December, compared to the first month of the new year, where there has been little activity.

"We made the OneGeorgia loan payment in December," Tyson said.

In general accounts payable, he provided a figure of $7,753.

He said for the entire year, income was right at 100%.

"We collected everything we budgeted," Tyson said. "Most of our accounts are under budget with a just a few over budget, such as auto expenses."

Tyson explained that this was the first year that the board was reimbursing Jackson for milage.

"It's only $336 over budget," Tyson said. "We'll have a better idea moving forward how to budget there."

He said the board was slightly over budget when it comes to legal and accounting costs.

A problem with the printer belonging to the DAMBC, meanwhile, also resulted in high repay bill.

Another overage was with utilities, but Tyson said the board converted to a development-owned phone.

The purchase price of the phone put the board in an overage.

"Anyway, we ended the year at 89% of our budgeted expenses, so overall we did well," Tyson said.

The financial report was later approved.

In other business, two current members of the board were up for reappointment, Ed Walker and Mac Patel.

"We normally send a letter to each agency that makes appointments affirming the board's will or desire for those people to serve again," Jackson said. "So, a motion would be in order for us to authorize that letter."

The board voted unanimously to approve of the letter being sent to the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners seeking that both men be reappointed to the DAMBC board for another two-year term.

"Thank you for continuing to serve," Seymour told Walker and Patel. "We appreciate it."