Revitalization of Jekyll Island will make all Georgians proud

By Bob Krueger

The following Op-Ed piece was printed in the Savannah Morning News  and the Brunswick News on December 19, 2009 and in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 21, 2009.

Note section in red, IPJI

I have been deeply involved in the process of revitalizing Jekyll Island since accepting my appointment to the Jekyll Island Authority board in August 2006. I would like to share an insider's perspective.

On Dec. 7, we celebrated the beginning of construction that will continue until the new Jekyll Island beach village is complete in 2012. The first phase of this project is Great Dunes Park, an open, accessible and environmentally-sensitive public space for all guests to enjoy a day at the beach.

This vision is not unlike my earliest memories of Jekyll Island, arriving with a carload of kids and gear. To commemorate the day and to recognize the importance of public space, Gov. Sonny Perdue joined board members to plant a ceremonial tree.

On Dec. 8, the determination was made that we would be unable to come to terms with our selected private partner to help us construct the new hotels and shops planned for the beach village. This was a tough decision; both parties had worked long and hard to create a win-win agreement. But in the end it was the persistent uncertainty with the economy that made coming to terms over a definite timeline impossible.

In 2007 when Gov. Perdue signed the lease extension to the Jekyll Island Authority making revitalization possible, his direction to the board was to make the right decisions for the island and Georgia's citizens. He repeated this to me Dec. 7 at our groundbreaking celebration, saying he trusted us to do the right thing.

The JIA board members, coming from different walks of life and bringing various, but all successful backgrounds, have followed through with that commitment. And while this recent agreement could not be settled, we will continue to work hard to accomplish our objective for bringing new hotels to the island.

Critics abound, and I liken them to armchair quarterbacks yelling at the television suggesting they could make better play calls than the professionals on the field. They yell and scream, then ask to pass the chips.

Those of us committed to making positive change must tighten our chin straps and work towards the goal of revitalization. In doing so, we will reverse the 20-year downward trend in visitation and avoid a crisis which would put in jeopardy the JIA's ability to protect the natural and historic resources that are unique.

I thank the members of the JIA board, the professionals at the Reynolds Companies and all involved for their efforts. I regret that the partnering agreement could not be completed, but we will press on.

The economy is posing difficulties, but with a wonderful new convention center underway and a terrific plan for an integrated beach village Jekyll Island remains a great opportunity. Revitalization will be accomplished in a responsible manner that will make Georgians proud.

When that day comes, I will celebrate not publicly but by reliving those early memories and perhaps take a nice quiet walk on the beach.

Bob Krueger is CEO of ComSouth Corporation and chairman of the Jekyll Island Authority.