Union City, Georgia isn’t exactly Wakanda, but Mayor Vince R. Williams would gladly don a superhero cape if it meant continued progress for his beloved city. Williams was part of a delegation that represented his city, the state and the country in the U.S. – China Exchange Association’s U.S. Business Matchmaking Conference with discussion based on how Japan, Africa and China could invest in America. A former, city councilman and current associate pastor, he is currently in his second term as mayor working diligently to improve the financial base of Union City by continuing to entice global businesses and improving opportunities for all who live, work and play there.
He has battled the forces of community destruction as Union City was on the verge of financial devastation, limited growth and significant waning enthusiasm amongst its residents when he entered office. Inheriting the position in 2017, Williams was able to decimate a huge financial deficit that stood for years and reversed it to an 81% increase in his first term. His dedication and diligence have not gone unnoticed as Mayor Williams was the recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award given by the office of the Secretary of State and the 2017 President’s Lifetime Achievement Award given by President Barack Obama. Most recently he was also selected as one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s 2018 Notable Georgians.
Quick to divert the credit, Williams says his amazing staff and committed residents have helped them turn the corner. After experiencing a 74% increase in population in 2000, Union City’s growth almost came to a screeching halt with only a 4% increase between 2010 to 2015. The Mayor and his team knew they needed to make the town more appealing and pushed for more transformation primarily focusing on incoming businesses to develop economic stability. Perhaps the biggest assistance for Williams converting their city was the designation of special zoning called Town Center Mixed Use (TCMU), Town Center Multi-Family (TCMF) and the Urban Design Overlay. This specialty zoning was awarded in 2004 as part of the Supplemental Study that rezoned the former Shannon Mall and surrounding areas. It created a hybrid for future development of mixed-use businesses, greenspace opportunities, a site for the Park & Ride, residential space, and more pedestrian friendly expansion. A big assist also came from the reallocation of the area of the former mall which allowed it to become a Tax Allocation District (TAD) which attracts new development by reducing its private infrastructure cost. The restructuring helped Union City develop an annexation that nearly doubled its land mass with a total area of now 10,827 acres.
The team’s collective persistence and additional land also helped with General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, Universal Forestry Products, Mortensen Woodwork, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods to call Union City home. The presence of other worldwide brands has also created much needed job opportunities with Walmart’s E-commerce Fulfillment Center, the 2nd largest in North America, Amazon’s distribution warehouse and ASOS, a British fashion and beauty retailer all having sites in Union City as well. The city is especially proud of its multi-million dollar film studios, Atlanta Metro Studios. Arriving in 2015, the studios produced movie blockbusters like Pitch Perfect and Jumanji and just signed a major production deal with NetFlix. Atlanta Metro Studios most impressive element is the residual effect it has on surrounding businesses like salons, restaurants, dry cleaners, hotels, and other existing businesses who can facilitate their needs.
Union City, Georgia has been in relentless pursuit of more success and can now brag of a stable $15 million in its general fund. They value those that have come and want to attract more businesses and residents by continuing to sell their city highlighting its greatest assets. Like most in the South Fulton corridor, they make their pitch about the proximity to the world’s busiest airport and easy access to major interstates I-75, I-85 and I-20. They have a keen understanding that quality education is paramount and know that successful schools are a lifeline to economic development. With that in mind, Union City has a master plan for the city to have a community center for all citizens to enjoy for the first time in its 110 year history. Known for having a spirit of collaboration, Mayor Williams admits, “That means opportunity for everybody. I don’t want one person in U.C. to want for anything. We are a progressive city, that leaves no one behind.”