Cherokee County Economic Development Update

The Council for Quality Growth and the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners co-hosted a Cherokee County Economic Update at The Bluffs, Wednesday, February 13. Jeff Watkins, Director of Planning and Zoning; Misti Martin, President of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development as well as County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens addressed the crowd of around 250, about the past present and future of growth in the Cherokee County area.

Jeff Watkins, talked about reforms that have taken place in the Development Services Office. Highlighting their simplification of the process for obtaining a license or permit in Cherokee County. They have created, “a one stop shop where a customer can get any permit, submit any plan or get assistance with building and development.” To read more about the process and how it came about to where it is today, please CLICK HERE.

Misti Martin, presented what Cherokee County has to offer with regard to growth and development. She talked about the new five building commerce center that is set to open this spring, which is located directly off of Highway 92, two miles from Interstate 75. The park contains five buildings all zoned for light commercial business. Additionally, she addressed the new outlet shopping center, located along the new Ridgewalk Parkway Interchange. The outlet mall is a 400,000 SF development that is a joint venture between Horizon Group Properties and CBL REIT, set to open in July  2013.

Martin highlighted the following projects in the county, including:

  • New aquatic center, the only one in Cherokee County
  • New Northside Hospital that is set to break ground later this year
  • Two new Northside Medical Office Buildings located at Town Lake and Sixes roads,
  • The new $28,000,000 expansion of Universal Alloy Corporation
  • 5000+ acre opportunity zone that has been identified along Interstate 575
  • The Bluffs, a new 700 acre development that houses the Cherokee County Administrative Complex as well as room for more office and residential construction.
  • Cherokee County Regional Airport. These expansions include a brand new 10,000 SF passenger terminal, lengthening and widening the runway in order to accommodate corporate jets, and the two new hangers that are located adjacent to the new terminal.

Chairman Ahrens focused on building a competitive advantage in the upcoming year. Ahrens highlighted four separate areas:

  • Cherokee County’s Unique Selling Points
  • Fiscal Integrity
  • Economic Development
  • Recognizing achievements/shortfalls

Cherokee County has a long list of unique selling points including:

  • The number one SAT scores in Georgia
  • The second lowest tax burden and spending
  • $45 million investment in parks/recreation
  • $75 million investment in transportation
  • An additional $45 million planned for investment in parks/recreation
  • $100 million planned investment for transportation

Chairman Ahrens highlighted that County credit rating is the highest in County history, sitting at AA+. He also noted the county operates on a cash bases, resulting in no monies borrowed to pay bills. Cherokee County is leading the way in economic development. Chairman Ahrens discussed  the different expansion projects previously highlighted by Martin. Some of the new initiatives were the two opportunity zones that have been established, totaling over 5,000 acres. One is located in SW Cherokee and the other near the Cherokee County Regional Airport.

In closing, Chairman Ahrens spoke about the achievements and shortfalls in the county. With some of the achievements including:

  • The operating budget being in a surplus
  • The reform in the Development Service Center
  • E911 response times being reduced by 34%
  • The designation of the second opportunity zone

The shortfalls he highlighted were:

  • The defeat of the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST)
  • The loss to Charlotte, North Carolina for the new major industrial economic development site.

Overall, Chairman Ahrens was positive in the direction that Cherokee County is moving in its relation to economic growth and development. The Council would like to thank the Cherokee Tribune for their great coverage of the event. To read the full article click HERE