UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Joel Cowan, May 15, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:40 - Early life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, I'm a product of Georgia, and small-town Georgia at that.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about growing up in a small-town, his childhood friendship with Joe Frank Harris, attending Georgia Tech, and becoming interested in industrial development.

Keywords: Cartersville, Georgia; Georgia Institute of Technology; Joe Frank Harris; industrial development

00:05:25 - Founding Peachtree City

Play segment

Partial Transcript: But before you graduated you founded Peachtree City.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about how he became involved at the early stages of the development project of Peachtree City. He also discusses how he selected the name for the city and its significance.

Keywords: Peachtree City; industrial development; project funding

00:13:27 - Developing Peachtree City

Play segment

Partial Transcript: How quickly did it really develop?

Segment Synopsis: Cowan remembers moving down to Peachtree City to set up residence after being chosen mayor. He discusses the process of securing financing to begin development, his vision for the city from the beginning, and the difficulty in originally mapping the land without a surveyor. He talks about using the Indian land grant surveys as a basis for parceling the land.

Keywords: Indian land grant; financing; industrial development; mapping; networking; surveying

00:24:55 - Developments beyond Peachtree City

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That was your first development, but there were others.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about the pace of development of the Peachtree City project and the projects he undertook during that time. He discusses a trade he made of a building in New York for a building which he developed into Phipps Plaza. Cowan also describes his involvement in state planning programs for growth, with the focus on green space and clustering of service in development.

Keywords: Cecil Alexander; Growth Strategies Commission; Phipps Plaza; Planned Growth Commission; development planning; environmental consciousness; green space

00:33:13 - Joe Frank Harris

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Before we get too far away from it, I would like to go back to the year that Joe Frank Harris first ran for the state legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about working for Governor Joe Frank Harris as his Chief of Staff. He talks about the emerging influence of media in political campaigning during Harris' campaign for governor, and about managing financial matters for various of Harris' projects and commissions.

Keywords: Joe Frank Harris; business management; chief of staff; financial management; media campaigning

00:43:36 - Central Atlanta Progress

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell us about Central Atlanta Progress.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about forming a development group, Central Atlanta Progress, to undertake urban renewal projects in Atlanta. He also reflects on the role of private wealth applied to civic projects and compares the development of three cities in Georgia.

Keywords: Central Atlanta Progress; capital investment; civic projects; urban renewal

00:52:56 - Regional planning and development

Play segment

Partial Transcript: One of the heartening things to me over over the past, oh maybe, two decades has been the concept of regional planning and development...

Segment Synopsis: Cowan discusses the old system of federal funding to county units for regional planning and the subsequent creation of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority as a centralizing organization.

Keywords: Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA); centralization; county unit system; federal funding; state-level planning

00:59:38 - Advocating for train transportation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now one of the more interesting ideas that I thought that I had...

Segment Synopsis: Cowan discusses trains as a form of public transformation in Georgia and its possible impact on economic development of areas outside of metro-Atlanta.

Keywords: Macon, Georgia; economic development; public transportation; rapid transit; train; transportation

01:07:17 - Downtown connector & northern arc

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You spoke of the downtown connector.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about the downtown connector, downtown development, and urban sprawl. He discusses the proposed plan of building a interstate connector north of I-285, and his idea of creating green space around it. Cowan also talks about toll roads versus public roads.

Keywords: I-286northern arc; downtown connector; green space; toll road; transportation planning and development

01:15:47 - Water allocation planning

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now you serve as the Chairman or have served or maybe still serve as Chairman of the North Georgia Water Management.

Segment Synopsis: Cowan discusses the challenges in planning local and regional water allocation in Georgia. He talks about interstate negotiations between neighboring states, county-level water allocation planning, and future-minded administration of water.

Keywords: Alabama; Florida; administration and management; allocation; interstate; water disputes; water resources

01:28:15 - Reflection on career, involvement, and legacy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: As you look back now, what do you think was your biggest accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: Cowan talks about his accomplishment in developing green space in Peachtree City, and his disappointment in not being able to affect long-term change in planning. Cowan talks about the relationship between crisis, political leadership, and change. He also mentions serving ont he Georgia Tech Foundation and teaching classes at Georgia Tech.

Keywords: Georgia Tech; Peachtree City; accomplishment; crisis; disappointment