Both C. Jack Ellis and Robert Reichert agree that to be successful, Macon needs to bring in new businesses. First, though, they say the city has to get rid of old, dilapidated buildings.
During an interview inSeptemberwith 13WMAZ's Randall Savage and Katelyn Heck, both candidates described how they plan to do that.
"We'll take a position on it that as long as you live in that house, as long as you are alive, you won't owe us anything," says Ellis."But when you pass on, your heirs, before they can sell that house, they would have to make good on that debt that we did. That's the way to do it, and you just work day and night, working with the citizens to make sure that boarded up houses are boarded up, lots are clean, and those that should be torn down are torn down."
Reichert says, "You can work with them to try to find grants or some other type of program that would help them refurbish the house to continue to live in it. That's cost effective. If you can't find the owner, that's when you have to resort to tearing it down. Once it becomes unsalvageable and you can't rehabilitate it, you need to take it down, but don't leave it as a vacant lot. Recycle the lot, get marketable title to the lot, so you can sell it to someone that can build another house back on it."
According to the Economic and Community Development Department, the city demolished 660 houses from 2000 to 2007.
Ellis also touts his involvement with redeveloping Oglethorpe and other neighborhoods and creating mixed-income housing options.
Pat Topping with the Macon-Bibb Chamber of Commerce says around2,900 jobs were created by 28 new companies coming to the city during Ellis' second term. Numbers were not available for his first four years in office. Ellis partially attributes his success to creating new training opportunities for those out of work.
He says, "We have a good track record when it comes to working to get people ready to work, as well as creating jobs. Bass Pro Shops came here while I was in office, as well as Kohl's distribution, and the one I'm most proud of is building a $37 million hotel and pulling some 240 people on the east side of town."
Reichert's administration also made removing blight a priority and demolished 574 abandoned homes since he took office in 2007.
He also developed the 5-by-5 plan to concentrate on revitalizingfive blocks in each of thefive city wards over afive week period.
Reichert is a major supporter of the Second Street Corridor project, which will restructure Second Street as the spine of downtown Macon.
Reichert says he's also brought some big companies.
He says, "Had a fellow out of Memphis, Tennessee named Mike Mullis. He was a national consultant. He came in and told us that he had previously written Macon and Bibb County off because we couldn't get our act together, but he had sensed that we were coming together as a community and getting our act together, to use his terminology, and he was going to bring a project back to Macon and Bibb County to see what we could do with it. Do you know what that project turned out to be? Tractor Supply Company."
That brought over 300 jobs to the area.
Topping says, over the past six years, 15 other businesses came to the city, even during the recession, and created nearly 950 jobs.