The Council for Quality Growth and the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners co-hosted the Second Annual Cherokee State of the County at the Cherokee Conference Center on Wednesday, February 18. Misti Martin, President of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development and Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens addressed the crowd of over 280 people about the current growth and future potential for Cherokee County.
Misti Martin began with a brief overview of Cherokee County’s economic accomplishments over the last year and then discussed the County’s plans for the future. Over the course of last year Cherokee and its business community made substantial strides in business development and economic growth. Some highlights include:
- Cherokee County received national recognition for contributing to Georgia’s status as one of the best states in the U.S. for business;
- Businesses in Cherokee County announced a $67M commitment to capital investments in 2013 and created 300 jobs;
- Two different Cherokee businesses received the State of Georgia’s “Deal of the Year Award” and the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Deal of the Year” Award;
- Over 2,000 jobs were created or announced in Cherokee in 2013
In addition to these achievements, Cherokee is making waves in Georgia by becoming a magnet for the film industry. Cherokee has begun promoting itself as a “camera ready” county within the state of Georgia and the number of productions taking place in the county in 2013 has been greater than both 2011 and 2012.
Martin also spoke about the county’s “Five Focus” approach to continuing the County’s growth. The County will focus on product development, retention & expansion of its current businesses, economic diversification of the county’s industries, recruitment and retention of talent, and marketing Cherokee as a destination instead of a suburb of Atlanta. Cherokee’s new focus and constant innovation show that the county refuses to become complacent with its success and intends on building upon its strong foundation and recent growth.
Chairman Ahrens then delivered his State of the County Address, which focused on how the county has built a competitive advantage over the last year and will compound on its success in 2014. The Chairman first discussed how fiscal integrity, quality growth, economic development, and environmental stewardship serve as four guiding principles for his decisions. Chairman Ahrens then discussed the county’s growth by highlighting certain numbers from 2013:
- 2,000 jobs were announced or committed in Cherokee in 2013
- $220,000,000 in investment were committed to the county in 2013
- The county saw a 730% increase in investments over the last year
- Cherokee saw a 340% increase in job creation over the last year
- Cherokee has issued 14% more licenses in 2013 than in 2012
- Cherokee boasts the # 1 SAT scores in metro Atlanta, and # 2 in the State
- The county had a 60.5% increase in building permit values since 2012
- The county has the lowest tax burden per capita in Metro Atlanta
Chairman Ahrens also took time to highlight Cherokee’s success in making the county a destination for businesses. Cherokee saw over 1,000 more renewals in business licenses than in 2012 and increased the amount of licenses it issued by 14%. Additionally, the county’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.6% to 5.6%, which further suggests that the county is becoming a destination for businesses. These statistics support Misti Martin’s focus on making Cherokee a destination county within the state and show that Cherokee’s Commissioners and the Office of Economic Development are successfully working towards the same goals.
In closing, Chairman Ahrens recognized a few of Cherokee businesses that received awards in 2013. Some of the businesses recognized included:
- Universal Alloy, an alloy manufacturer that specializes in alloys used in the manufacture of aircrafts, was recognized by Gulfstream as the “Supplier of the Year”
- Northside Hospital received Georgia Hospital Association Core Measure Honor Roll Chairman’s Award for Top 5% of hospitals in America
- FactoryMotion, an industrial control products manufacturer, received Georgia’s “Small Business Rockstar” award for 2013
- Inalfa Roof Systems, a vehicle roof systems manufacturer, received Governor Deal’s “Georgia Deal of the Year” award
- Outlet Shoppes Of Atlanta, an outlet mall in Woodstock, received the Atlanta business Chronicle’s “Deal of the Year” award in retail
Overall, Chairman Ahrens showed that Cherokee County has a track record of promoting economic development, and he is confident that the county is primed to become a destination-county for residents and businesses in Georgia during 2014. The Council will continue to support and partner with Cherokee County as it continues its work to foster growth and development in the Metro Atlanta region.