Big plans for Por­terdale

New down­town di­rec­tor sets forth new goals

The Covington News - - THE SECOND FRONT - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

A bustling river recre­ation and park scene, fish fry restau­rants and sports bars, beer fes­ti­vals, down­town movie show­ings and homage to the city’s his­tory: Por­terdale’s city of­fi­cials have big plans for their city, and new Down­town Di­rec­tor Teri Haler is re­spon­si­ble for push­ing the agenda for­ward.

Hired in early July, Haler, 43, is work­ing to get the city des­ig­nated as a Ge­or­gia Main Street com­mu­nity to open the doors to more grants and op­por­tu­ni­ties to restore the city to the mod­ern equiv­a­lent of its bustling mill vil­lage past.

Who is Haler?

An 11-year co-owner, along with her hus­band, of Cur­rent Events Pro­duc­tions, Haler has been in­volved in mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tions for years, and as a down­town Cov­ing­ton mer­chant, she’s been ac­tive in Cov­ing­ton’s Main Street pro­gram as well as the tourism and small busi­ness com­mit­tees at the Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“With Teri’s back­ground, her and (hus­band) Chris hav­ing their own busi­ness is ideal; we didn’t hire some­body right out of school,” said Por­terdale City Man­ager Bob Thom­son, who added her ex­pe­ri­ence on the Main Street Cov­ing­ton board was im­por­tant. “She has a lot of con­tacts and busi­ness re­la­tion­ships, and re­la­tion­ships are the name of the game in busi­ness as in so many fields.

“She’s done mar­ket­ing, video pro­duc­tion, brochures and pub­li­ca­tions. All of those would help a small town like Por­terdale. The great thing is Teri is as ex­cited to work with us as we are with her.”

Haler grad­u­ated from the Art In­sti­tute of At­lanta in 1991 with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

She’s worked in cus­tom flag de­sign and news­pa­per com­po­si­tion, but spent the ma­jor­ity of her time work­ing in the graph­ics depart­ment at THP Graph­ics, in­clud­ing han­dling a big high school football sched­ule poster ac­count, and work­ing in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment for Hori­zon Soft­ware, where she led the in-house video pro­ject team.

At Cur­rent Events, she’s led video ef­forts, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ing more cor­po­rate videos in re­cent years.

She took the Por­terdale po­si­tion, she said, be­cause the fam­ily was in tran­si­tion with one son go­ing into the U.S. Navy and an­other go­ing off to col­lege, and the op­por­tu­nity also pro­vided a “change in scenery.”

The po­si­tion is cur­rently a 20-hour-a-week part-time job, and pays about $1,100 a month, in­clud­ing mileage and ex­penses, Thom­son said; he hopes the po­si­tion will in­crease to 30-40 hours a week in 2014, though he said any de­ci­sion is up to the coun­cil.

Haler can be reached at thaler@city­of­por­ or by phone at 770786-2217.

Why Main Street?

Haler’s first task is to get Por­terdale a Main Street pro­gram. She is cur­rently go­ing through the ap­pli- cation process, which in­volves a crash course in Por­terdale’s his­tory and cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and trans­lat­ing that for the Ge­or­gia Dept. of Com­mu­nity Af­fairs, which over­sees the pro­gram along with Main Street Ge­or­gia.

The two groups will re­view ap­pli­ca­tions and sched­ule com­mu­nity site vis­its in Oc­to­ber and then will se­lect cities for the pro­gram..

Main Street Ge­or­gia re­cently re­vised its pro­gram to move to a tiered sys­tem. Por­terdale is ap­ply­ing for tier two, the Down­town Start-Up Pro­gram, ba­si­cally an in­tense, two-year pro­gram to help a city de­velop a full-fledged Main Street pro­gram, Haler said.

Ac­cord­ing to Main Street Ge­or­gia’s web­site, the pur­pose of its pro­gram is to pro­mote his­toric preser­va­tion, small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, ex­pan­sion of the state’s em­ploy­ment base, in­creased tourism and to fa­cil­i­tate pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships. There are cur­rently 96 Main Street com­mu­ni­ties in Ge­or­gia, in­clud­ing Cov­ing­ton.

What are the goals?

The goal is a more vi­brant down­town, with more recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties, more shop­ping and restau­rants and more ex­cite­ment.

Haler is still delv­ing into what the com­mu­nity cur­rently has to of­fer, but she has plenty of ideas for boost­ing the ex­cite­ment level.

One of the key pri­or­i­ties, which is al­ready be­ing ad­dressed through var­i­ous ef­forts, is to turn the Yel­low River into a des­ti­na­tion for

both river recre­ation and, Haler hopes, other recre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The state is pay­ing to in­stall a boat ramp on the Yel­low River, while the city is pay­ing for a smaller ca­noe and kayak launch point, both of which will be close to where the Ga. High­way 81 bridge crosses the river.

The city also hopes to build a park by the Yel­low River, where the cur­rent gravel park­ing lot is, to boost ac­tiv­ity down­town. Haler will con­tinue to work to­ward those goals, but she aims to go fur­ther.

One of the best ways to bring money into a com­mu­nity is to con­vince tourists to stay overnight, so Haler is hop­ing to de­velop a camp­site en­vi­ron­ment.

She also be­lieves the city could at­tract en­thu­si­asts of sec­ondary sports, such as Ul­ti­mate Fris­bee, wif­fle ball or sim­i­lar sports, to en­joy the area.

She’d love to see a small, in­de­pen­dent ver­sion of out­fit­ter REI to ac­com­mo­date lo­cals and tourists.

A fish fry restau­rant would be a neat themed ad­di­tion to the down­town, to build off the river theme, Haler said.

“I want to help the busi­nesses that are here and help re­cruit new busi­nesses,” Haler said, “find things that fill in the gaps.”

Thom­son said this week a sports bar is also look­ing at the city.

Movie show­ings in the re­vamped Por­terdale Gym (which is be­ing ren­o­vated now) and a beer fes­ti­val could be pos­si­bil­i­ties down the road, she said.

Since Por­terdale has no ho­tels or mo­tels in the city lim­its, it doesn’t get any ho­tel/mo­tel tax rev­enue, one of the big­gest fund­ing sources for Main Street and tourism ac­tiv­i­ties in Cov­ing­ton. To help bring money to the city and fund fur­ther down­town de­vel­op­ment, Haler hopes the ren­o­vated gym and the for­mer train de­pot can be­come big­ger venues for events.

At the di­rec­tion of Thom­son and Mayor Ar­line Chap­man, Haler is also up­load­ing pho­tos of Por­terdale to lo­cal and state film lo­ca­tion sites. The up­com­ing crime thriller film “Pris­on­ers” filmed some scenes in Por­terdale, which are fea­tured in the movie’s trailer.

How­ever, Haler said one of the city’s big­gest op­por­tu­ni­ties is to play off the fact it’s a his­toric mill vil­lage.

“It’s the largest mill vil­lage that is al­most 100 per­cent in­tact. We are reg­is­tered on the national his­toric reg­istry, as are al­most all of the houses be­cause they were mill houses (built by for­mer tex­tile mill op­er­a­tor Bibb Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co.),” Haler said. “That’s a huge ben­e­fit we have over many other ar­eas.

“Plenty of grants are look­ing for his­tory, and there are a lot of tours based on tour­ing old tex­tile mills.”

Gabriel Khouli /The Cov­ing­ton News

Por­terdale Down­town Di­rec­tor Teri Haler.

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