Stadium benefits: Future jobs could be fostered in environment, history, even early childhood development
By David Pendered
The strategic plan to renew blighted neighborhoods near the future Falcons stadium seems to address the issue of local hiring that some advocates hope the Atlanta City Council will include in its stadium funding legislation.
“At the heart of the plan is the provision of a road map to sustainable job creation and transformative human capital development for the residents of the Westside TAD neighborhoods,” the plan states.
The report predicts that jobs – other than as shop clerks – will be created in English Avenue and Vine City. Fields are to include environmental clean-up; culture, history and the arts; early childhood learning; and construction. The report, prepared for Invest Atlanta, also describes the role of a proposed training center to prepare future workers.
The issue of local hiring has yet to emerge as a major topic for the Community Benefits Plan Committee – despite repeated prodding from some community advocates who hope it will be included in a final community benefits deal. The council has to approve such a deal before the city can provide any of the $200 million it has promised to help pay for the stadium’s construction.
The strategic plan cites several indicators of the community’s need for good jobs and help in gaining the skills to get a job and keep it:
- “More than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line;
- “Over 80 percent of the children attending school receive free or reduced lunch;
- “The average median household income is approximately $23,000;
- “Only 17 percent of the housing units are owner occupied.”
The strategic plan contends that a training center, called a resource center, could serve as a one-stop shop where multiple providers could teach the life skills necessary get and keep a job. The report suggests that further research be conducted to determine which providers and skills be made available in one or more resource centers of about 50,000 square feet.
The jobs that could be created in English Avenue and Vine City are outlined in the report. A few examples include:
- Environment – “The jobs that could be generated from the cleanup and restoration of the [Proctor Creek] watershed and the infrastructure running through it are numerous. At this time, the water resources industry is losing critical workers at a higher rate than they are being replaced.”
- Culture, arts, history: “Job creation around protection, preservation, and interpretation can be generated for area residents to continue and build on existing programs. Many residents are very knowledgeable about the area’s history and have stories, artifacts, and photos reflecting the past.”
- Early childhood education: “To stem the tide of cyclical dropout rates and poverty, early childhood and parent/caregiver intervention is crucial to the future success of the neighborhoods. … From certified early childhood professionals to daycare workers, jobs for this important age could be created within and by the community.”
The report did not predict wages and benefits for these jobs.
These jobs do, however, provide glimmers of entrepreneurial possibilities in businesses that could be scaled into other Atlanta neighborhoods and even other cities. These possibilities not be possible in some of the jobs that were outlined during the committee’s Sept. 4 meeting, such as the future jobs in a potential hotel along Northside Drive, according to Scott Chapman, who represents Castleberry Hill on the committee and works in the hotel industry.
“The permanent jobs are not going to average $30,000 to $40,000,” he said. “Instead, they’re going to be $8 to $10 an hour. A 110-room hotel is going to have a general manager, no assistant manager, 11 full-time equivalent employees at $8 to $12, maybe $15, an hour.”
As longtime community advocate Tillman Ward often notes, the area’s history should be shared and could be developed into a local cottage industry.
For example, just one nearby neighborhood, the Sunset Avenue Historic District, contains historic attractions including:
- The former home of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson;
- The former home of Julian Bond, a 20-year member of the Georgia legislature and chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1998 to 2010;
- The former home of Edward Wachendorff, a German immigrant who moved to Atlanta and helped open a nursery and seed store in 1876, according to a history of the area published at www.vinecity.net.
- One of Atlanta’s first health centers – the Neighborhood Union Health Center.
The committee is slated to meet again Wednesday to continue deliberating a community benefits deal. The stadium legislation the council approved in March requires the council to adopt such a deal before Atlanta can provide any of the $200 million it’s contributing to the $1 billion retractable roof stadium. The committee agreed Sept. 4 that it won’t be bound by an Oct. 2 deadline that was set in July.