More than 200 county officials from across the country are gathered this week in DeKalb County, Ga. for NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) and NACo Board meetings.
NACo President Larry Johnson welcomed NACo members and guests Thursday morning at the official kick-off.
“Our goal is to make sure our counties are well-equipped and able to handle anything that comes your way, we just want to give you some extra tools,” said Johnson, a county commissioner for DeKalb County. The meeting began with a rendition of the national anthem by DeKalb County’s WorkForce DeKalb director, Theresa Austin-Gibbons.
County officials on Thursday and Friday will hear from experts on infant mortality and prenatal care, DEI efforts, homelessness and American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“We’re pleased to see you all in person after the dark days of the pandemic,” said John O’Grady, LUCC chair and Franklin County, Ohio commissioner.
The day before, county officials got a chance to tour a counseling center and a shopping center that helps launch Black entrepreneurial businesses.
Three busloads of NACo members on Wednesday visited CHRIS 180, a nonprofit that counsels young people who have suffered trauma in their lives. The nonprofit center partnered with DeKalb County and others to create the multi-million dollar center, which includes housing for foster children.
CHRIS 180 president and CEO Kathy Colbenson, accepts a check Wednesday for the center from NACo President Larry Johnson, DeKalb County, Ga. commissioner (left) and John O’Grady, Franklin County, Ohio commissioner and chair of the Large Urban County Caucus. Photo by Hugh Clarke
Johnson introduced county officials to Kathy Colbenson, president and CEO of CHRIS 180. “It always takes a village to accomplish anything,” she said, noting the help she received from the county and donations made to create the center. She also discussed the use of the New Market Tax Credit in creating the center. “It was an unbelievable amount of work and red tape, but worth it.”
The center, said Colbenson, a therapist, is “not about toxic charity. We treat people with dignity. Trauma-informed care should not be about ‘What’s wrong with you?’ but ‘What happened to you?’” After the briefing, county officials broke up into groups led by CHRIS 180 employees to tour the 7-acre campus.
New Black Wall Street Market
After the tour, county officials headed to a shopping center that helps Black entrepreneurs launch their own businesses. New Black Wall Street Market celebrated its grand opening the weekend after Thanksgiving, welcoming 12,000 shoppers. The building was renovated in 10 months and includes more than 100 tenants. It is filled with minority entrepreneurs selling everything from original artwork to hand-rolled cigars to ginger-infused smoothies.
A former Target store, the center is an extension of the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute, created by philanthropist Bill Allen, who discussed his vision with county officials. “Bill Allen wanted to see more minorities become successful entrepreneurs,” said Matt Hampton, director of the market.
“Most young people are not excited about a job,” Allen said. “They want to own their own business. ‘Ownership, ownership, ownership.’ Say it with me!”
County officials lined up afterward to swap contact information to see how they might replicate a similar program in their counties back home.
Hendricks is a staff writer for County News. Barton is editor and senior writer for County News. Look for more coverage of the LUCC and NACo Board meetings in the County News issue coming out on Dec. 13.Hero 1