Agencies' Relocation Studied Decentralization Must Be on Merit

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Cities and towns vying to lure state government offices away from Atlanta will have to sell themselves, not only to the affected agencies and workers, but also to the state's bean counters, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor said yesterday.

"As with any other job-creating initiative, it's not just going to be given to any rural community in rural Georgia," Taylor told a commission looking into decentralizing state government at its kickoff meeting. "It's going to have to be earned."

The panel, which includes legislators and business leaders, will have until spring to develop criteria that can be used to determine which state agencies would be good candidates for relocation outside of the capital and which communities would be the best home for those operations.

Before the General Assembly convenes in January, the commission is to issue a report outlining the status of current decentralization efforts and detailing the costs of doing business in various regions of the state.

The move toward decentralizing state government began in the early 1990s with the relocation of the state Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division to Social Circle in Walton County. The trend has gained momentum during the past year with the shift of the Secretary of State's Division of Professional Licensing to Macon and the recent opening of the new OneGeorgia Authority's headquarters in Dublin.

"Telecommunications has made all this possible," said Peggy Chapman, president of the Statesboro Chamber of Commerce and a member of the commission. "With computers and telecommunications systems throughout the state now, where you live is not important anymore . …