The Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) recently announced the formation of the Strategic Initiatives Community Grant program that can fund businesses and non-profit organizations. Grants could be awarded up to $500,000 for organizations whose core model centers around: housing and infrastructure, jobs and workforce development, small business growth and education.

“Being from Southwest Atlanta, I’ve seen how the lack of investment can be detrimental to our community for far too long,” explained Developmental Authority of Fulton County Board Member Kyle Lamont. “I have seen our communities ignored, no matter what level that falls on, whether it be city, county, or state; the infrastructure and the focus of dollars have never really truly been invested in the impactful ways that it should be in our communities. I didn’t want to sit on the Board of Directors and fully understand how detrimental certain investments can be for communities and not find ways to safeguard our communities.”

To be eligible, organizations must have nonprofit tax status or a current business license and a “letter of good standing.” Lamont says he expects to get an application online in about a month and have a review process that takes 90 days.

Kyle Lamont, a board member with the Development Authority of Fulton County, poses for photographs inside the Atlanta Voice studios on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. Lamont is leading the Strategic Initiatives Community Grant program, which offers grants to businesses and nonprofits that serve Fulton County. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Additionally, the Development Authority of Fulton County is an autonomous government agency that was created by the State of Georgia in 1973. Since then, the DAFC provides wide-ranging economic development services on behalf of Fulton County. DAFC also facilitates community based economic development initiatives.

The current director, Sarah-Elizabeth Langford, and DAFC Chairman, Michel “Marty” Turpeau, explained their desires to address funding inequities throughout southern Fulton County in an earlier interview with The Atlanta Voice. Lamont says the new grant program will be able to provide a way to make direct investments into these small businesses that not only employ the residents in our communities, but empower the communities these businesses serve. 

“Oftentimes, we talk about what it means to mitigate the things that are causing our communities harm: whether that be displacement for renters, homeowners and businesses,” Lamont said while describing why housing is one of the four tenets of the program. “That’s why it’s important to make sure that one of our four focus areas is affordable housing. We understand that we are losing affordable housing hand over fist. 

We understand that there is a housing shortage in Atlanta. And that is a problem that will probably continue to be exacerbated over the next decade or so as we continue as we’re expected to grow by another 1 million people. So we are putting ourselves in position to help mitigate the issues that we see as important to us as a Development Authority Board.”

Sarah-Elizabeth Langford, Executive Director of the Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC), left, listens to DAFC Board Chair Marty Turpeau plus Accounting Manager and Tax Incentive analyst Marva Bryan during a meeting on Friday, December 17, 2021 in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Even though the DAFC is an autonomous organization, they have relationships with city planners and developers throughout Fulton County. Currently, the DAFC under Turpeau’s leadership and Langford’s direction, has emphasized helping under-served areas, specifically south of I-20. 

DAFC Board Chairman Turpeau described the shared sentiment in a January 2022 interview with The Atlanta Voice.

“Because we are very aware of the lack of development in certain under-served areas of the county, we must do something about it. This doesn’t mean we neglect any area, but we must pay special attention to developing tools that target under-served areas.”

To that effect, Lamont says that this grant’s focus will be on the City of Atlanta and its surrounding areas. 

“I can remember having conversations with key players from the city of Atlanta to have a conversation with a development authority to figure out how we can all best move forward,” Lamont explained. “Because I think at the end of the day, we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. It’s just how we are going about doing it, and how we are affecting the communities we serve.”

Lamont says he joined the board understanding that there are underlying tensions between city and county leaders and has worked hard to bridge those gaps.

“So I say that to say my work, and my commitment continues to be to work with all of the municipalities we serve, not just on the south side but the north side as well,” Lamont said. This program, while it is designed to make direct investments, is not limited to any one part of the county, this is to shore up all of the areas of the county, we believe naturally that a lot of these investments on our four focus areas will lend themselves to South Fulton investments.”

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Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...