Last year, during the late months of last year, there was a disruption in the logical flow of life in south DeKalb. I received a call and was asked if I knew anything about Publix at Hariston Crossing closing. I knew nothing of it even though I shopped there a couple of days before. Of course my natural reaction to the news was of shock and disbelief. After getting off the phone I quickly called the store and spoke to the manager. After verifying the closing, I decided to ask other community leaders about the news. A couple of people heard about it and some didn’t.
A call to the corporate office of Publix revealed something that caught me off guard. The factors for closing that location didn’t make any sense. Not only being an anchor to the greater Hidden Hills community, it provided a standard of customer service that everyone enjoyed. While disappointed, I knew this was a business decision. It’s a decision that would shape the new direction and vision of south DeKalb.
For those that don’t know who I am, my name is Kenneth Saunders, III. I’m a 30+ year resident of DeKalb County. I’ve been active in the community for my entire adult life. Currently, I’m VP of External Affairs for the Hidden Hills Civic Association and I’m on the DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals. In the past I’ve been part of the DeKalb Community Council, Parks Bonds Advisory Board. I don’t mean to say that to impress you but only to inform you that I’m not a transient person. I grew up in south DeKalb. I discovered my purpose in south DeKalb. I’m a product of south DeKalb.
Last November, I was elected by my peers to become Chairman of the South Dekalb Improvement Association (SDIA). To have people see something in me to take the organization to new a level has truly been a humbling experience. The previous year, I was vice chair for SDIA. Learning the ropes of the organization with a focus on economic development has prepared me to lead SDIA.
I believe the south DeKalb Improvement Association is the right organization at the right time in DeKalb County due to the shifting dynamics of politics, business and community.
The political landscape in DeKalb County is changing. During this political year, we will see people step up to change the county for the better. While SDIA will not support any specific candidate, we will support the process of educating people on the issues that are up for votes. Speaking of voting rights, we are in support of the proposed city of Greenhaven. I will explain further in another post on why this is a critical issue for south DeKalb.
At the beginning of this article I discussed the closing of Publix in the community. I didn’t expect that this announcement was just the beginning. Walmart, Sears and Sam’s Club followed Publix in closing their locations. This has caused a major shift in how residents of south Dekalb shop for essential products. The reason for theses places to close has been the same reason. The perception has been that these stores have been doing well when you look at the parking lots. Unfortunately, this is a case where perception isn’t reality. According to Walmart and Publix, they’ve been losing money for years or underperforming compared to other locations. While this could be true, what I’ve noticed is the lack of communication between these companies and the community. SDIA is the link that will improve this tremendously. The Economic Development division of SDIA sees this and will implement a process to keep the current stores and services through forums and other means.
The support of business is is vital to the growth of south DeKalb. We have to keep money here in order to effectively demand what we want and need in this part of the county. Through cityhood, support of existing municipalities and county government, we can influence the businesses we want in our community. I’m very optimistic that this can be done. The community can make it happen.
What’s essential to the sustainability of south DeKalb is the community. It’s the hard working residents of south DeKalb County that makes this one of the best areas in metro Atlanta to live. SDIA recognizes this and through our excellent Education, Housing, Public Safety and Code Compliance divisions, we are here to serve the community and to improve south DeKalb. I’m proud to have people that love this area and to chair these divisions. Like me, you’ll be excited about the future due to the initiatives they will implement this year. Our first public meeting of the year takes place February 10, 2018 at 9AM at the Berean Community Center.