Spurred by council vote, Piedmont business owners, residents meet to discuss city improvement

PIEDMONT —If Piedmont’s city government is not going to promote the growth of the town, Kevin Cunningham said, its business leaders have to pick up the slack.

Cunningham, who owns the Pinhoti Properties building in town, led a meeting of about 30 Piedmont business owners and residents Tuesday night at Shell’s Downtown Bar and Grill. 

It was the first of what Cunningham hopes will become monthly meetings of business leaders, spurred on by a Piedmont City Council decision at its last meeting.

“We’re looking at changing the direction of this city,” Cunningham said. “That’s what spurred this.”

A vote at last Tuesday’s meeting was evidence of the council’s wish to dissolve the city’s Commercial Development Authority, a separate entity with a mandate to recruit business to the city. Councilman Bobby Hardin made the surprise motion during his time to give a report on his district, stating a lack of need, while three “no” votes, from Mayor Bill Baker and council members Millie Bramblett and Matt Rogers were not enough to defeat five “yes” votes.

However, the authority would have to vote to dissolve itself for the move to become official. Baker said Monday that’s not going to happen, and that the unpaid board and all its members will remain intact.

The vote upset some business owners, Cunningham said. Several spoke out in the meeting, saying that the board helped to establish their businesses.

“Lane helped to get us going,” said Brandon Moore, owner of the Elevated Grounds coffee shop, referring to authority chairman Lane Weatherbee.

Attendees discussed ways to hold city leaders accountable, as well as strategies to promote and market the city to both tourists and prospective residents and businesses.

“We’re all for a pro-growth and a pro-Piedmont stance,” Cunningham said. “We can grow this town and get jobs in here.”

Piedmont’s business owners have a vested interest in seeing the city succeed, Cunningham said.

“As business owners, we’re bringing our life savings here to try to do something,” Cunningham said. “We all have to support each other. If one business is failing, it affects us all.”