Chairman backs EDGE: Lee throws support behind program seeking public funds; Official estimates EDGE will take $1.5M per year to fund
by Katy Ruth Camp
krcamp@mdjonline.com
January 20, 2012 01:17 AM | 6679 views | 21 21 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Lee said at Thursday’s meeting to introduce Cobb’s Competitive EDGE that, as chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, he will give his support to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce project.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
Tim Lee said at Thursday’s meeting to introduce Cobb’s Competitive EDGE that, as chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, he will give his support to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce project.
Staff/Laura Moon
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KENNESAW — Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, who is also one of four co-chairs for the economic development and jobs creation project unveiled on Thursday, titled Cobb’s Competitive EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy), said after the invitation-only presentation at Kennesaw State University’s Continuing Education Center that if the Board of Commissioners is asked to provide funding for the $1.5-million-a-year project, he will support it.

Backing by the commission will have to be approved by at least two of the other county commissioners, and it is unclear where they stand on the issue at the moment.

Meanwhile, as Lee confirmed he will be running for chairman again in July, his opponent, Bill Byrne, said on Wednesday he absolutely would not support public funding for the project, citing the poor economy and shrinking county budget. Opponents Larry Savage and Mike Boyce said they would need to know more about the project before taking a stance.

“We are clearly at a crossroads where a decision needs to be made as to whether to move forward aggressively or to sit on our hands and fall back and slide back and do nothing,” Lee said to begin the meeting before a crowd estimated around 100. “You’re going to see some information in today’s programming that’s outstanding in its regard to job creation and economic development, recruitment and building existing businesses here in Cobb County. What you’ll see today takes us to the next level, and takes us to the next step to the success of Cobb County.”

Thursday’s official unveiling of EDGE also left unclear what will happen with the county government’s current economic development department, which historically has led economic development efforts in the county and is spearheaded by Michael Hughes. The county would be outsourcing economic development efforts to the EDGE group if commissioners agree to provide public funding. Officials would say only that the county’s role will be included in further studies of the development of EDGE.

Cobb Chamber CEO David Connell said it is too early to know what the project will cost, while the founder of Market Street, the company hired by the Chamber to do the research on the program, J. Mac Holladay, said after the meeting that he estimated it would take about $1.5 million a year to fund four or five staff members and the operations of the group. Holladay said his company has worked on 140 projects similar to EDGE in 30 states. Holladay said Gwinnett’s project, called Partnership Gwinnett, cost about $2 million a year when it was implemented in 2007, while the largest they have worked on was Memphis’ Memphis Tomorrow, which cost $30 million a year and was split evenly between public and private funding.

Holladay said none of the projects on which he’s worked have been completely funded with private money, and he does not believe a project could will work without some public funding.

“It can’t happen. When we talk about infrastructure, or transportation or schools, that’s all public funding. So the relationship and the building of this has got to be a cooperation, a working relationship. … Part of the reality is that if you have skin in the game, if you’re committed, then you’re going to pay real attention to the results and you’re going to be interested in the implementation. …What you’re trying to do is leverage the assets you have. So for the public or private sector to do it alone, that doesn’t leverage it,” Holladay said.

According to an Atlanta media source, Gwinnett commissioners gave $500,000 a year to Partnership Gwinnett, totaling $2.5 million of public funding over five years. Additionally, the cities gave a combined $100,000 a year, the county school system gave $150,000 a year and the Community Improvement Districts gave a combined $60,000 a year. The director of Partnership Gwinnett declined to talk about the project’s funding with the Journal.

That program is run out of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, but Connell said it is unclear yet where the EDGE staff would be housed.

Connell did say, however, the four co-chairs — made up of Lee, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Vice President and General Manager of the Marietta site Shan Cooper, WellStar Health System Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Kim Menefee and Kaiser Permanente Vice President of Regional and Marketing Strategy Dan Styf — will appoint members to the Board of Directors for the EDGE, who will then hire and manage the staff and their operations. Connell said an implementation team, made up mostly of the steering committee, will spend the next six months working on financial considerations (including how much public funding may be needed), a strategy of how the 501(c)3 would work, and would be traveling to other areas with similar structures to study what has worked for them. Connell said he would hope that the board would be appointed and a strategy in place by July but not the organization, while Holladay said he hoped the organization would be created and ready to go by July.

Comments
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rjsnh
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January 21, 2012
It is apparent that Lee is a Chamber lacky....He does their bidding rather than serve the public's interest. I have lived worked and lived in Cobb for over thirty years and he is by far the WORST chairman we have ever had. After he completes his one term the only board he needs to sit on is the Chamber's because he has no place in public life.
TCW (TheCobbWay)
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January 20, 2012
Oh well, I guess I am dumb for the misspelling dumb.

The people in Smyrna will understand. Just joking!!!
johncd
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January 20, 2012
Washington politics have come to Cobb.
TCW (TheCobbWay)
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January 20, 2012
This is a classic case of the choice of the lesser of two evils.

Who do we want to handle the future economic development efforts for Cobb County?

Let's see......................

The County, led by Dumd and Dumber (Tim Lee and David Hankerson) and which has proven itself to be incompetent and ineffective,

or

The Cobb Chamber which is led by a bunch of arrogant, self serving individuals who are duplicitous, fiscally irresponsible and ineffective.

HMMMMM. Not much to work with is there?

Can we find a third choice?
anonymous
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January 20, 2012
Are you crazy? You just raised our taxes because you couldn't make budget.
URKiddingRight?
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January 20, 2012
Let's see.

Thea Powell caught the Chamber with their greedy hands in the cookie jar of public funding via the Cobb Development Authority.

The Chamber can't support their own budget that is inflated by DC junkets, expensive golf tournament passes, elite dinner club memberships and overpaid excecutives.

So now they want to ask Cobb County taxpayers and the Cobb County School Board to ante up public dollars so they can continue to play and cloak it in the guise of diligently pursuing economic development on behalf of the county.

Are these they guys who supported the last SPLOST extension for Cobb County that won by a whopping 70 or so votes?

Aren't these they guys that supported Tim Lee in the last property tax hike?

Aren't these the guys that are currently pushing the TSPLOST?

Aren't these the guys who are all using Cobb tax dollars to build a light rail line for the City of Atlanta and fund the ongoing financial disaster known as MARTA

I don't know about anyone else, but given their recent track record, I am more than just a little dubious about this latest scheme.

TIC
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January 20, 2012
I am hoping that the other Commissioners can see the folly of this outrageous proposal.

Surely they have had enough of the Chamber dictating Cobb County policy on everything from property tax increases, wrongheaded transportation tax initiatives and economic development.

They have even resorted to trying to tell the Cobb School Board how to spend their money!!

What unadulterated arrogance!!!

Please take back control of the County and let Tim Lee know that his noodle spined leadership style is destroying our community.
NotSoPC
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January 20, 2012
Can't you guys at the Chamber, the county or anywhere else get at least a few of your shills to write in and support your brilliant Competitive Hedge idea?

Surely you can trick someone into pretending to support it?

Doc. Adams
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January 20, 2012
Tim, take your 1.5mil and spend on Barbie Doll.

Where are you going to get?

Maybe from Newtie, Hootch G?
SG68
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January 20, 2012
Just a brief comment.

What in the world are you people at the Chamber smoking?!!!

Whatever it is you are obviously sharing it with Tim Lee.

NtheNo
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January 20, 2012
Somebody PLEASE show these guys the county's balance sheet and explain it.
wake up
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January 20, 2012
Tim Lee wake up and stop bending over backwards on what the Cobb Chamber tells you to do and focus on what is best for Cobb County.

Chamber - start focusing more on promoting what is actually happening in Cobb and what small businesses are doing and less about the politics.
dustoff
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January 20, 2012
Mr. Lee, you do not have 1.5 million to spend.

You people up on the 3rd floor need to wake up and take off the rose colored glasses.

You are broke, the economy is down the tubes, houses are sitting empty all over the county due to foreclosures and you tax digest is in the crapper.

I dislike Bill Byrne and Larry Savage and think they will do flip flops if elected and you are cutting your own throat day at a time.

Oh yeah Cobb voters are not going to support any more SPLOST taxes, bet your booties on that one.
Cobb Taxpayer
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January 20, 2012
Great idea if this campaign replaces all of the folks on salary and benefits at Cobb Ecnomic Development and the Convention Folks ! Otherwise just plain stupid ! Maybe the Chamber and CID's can foot 100% of the bill and give the citizens back all of the other governmental bucks to hire, train and pay public safety officers ?
ol' retired doc
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January 20, 2012
Absolutely unbelievable! Tim Lee thinks he holds Cobb County's checkbook and has authority to use

it at will just as he has authority to raise our

taxes at will. Come election day it's bye bye Timmie Boy!
anonymous
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January 20, 2012
REALLY! We can't give our employees raises, we have to take away from their pensions; we have to add in fulough days; we have to charge them more for insurance; we cant fully staff our police and fire; we have to raise county taxes; but what the heck lets add another 1.5 Million to the budget, after all its just a drop in the bucket.
Pat H
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January 20, 2012
One of the Gwinnett Commissioners who provided taxpayer money to EDGE is under indictment, the Chairman resigned in disgrace but should be under indictment.
Joseph Pond
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January 20, 2012
Lee and the board JUST raised our taxes because of budget shortages- now he wants to spend MORE money that we do NOT have- in HOPES that we can bring more jobs to Cobb County? Madness! Look up The Rule of 21®: it takes $21 of economic activity to just breakeven on each dollar invested in state tax dollars- Imagine what it takes on a county level!

As I was reading the other day, "Leave the “job creation” to the private sector. Let the private sector KEEP more money, and we’ll create more products and more services that people will find useful enough to buy, and we’ll create jobs the old-fashioned way: by demand for useful goods and services."
Samuel Adams
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January 20, 2012
For the first time in 25 years, it crosses my mind that Cobb is no longer the best place to live and work.

We do not need another cabal of elites, benefitting from our tax dollars in prestige, power and political influence. Deming Bass is nothing but a middle man and hiring this firm to do the work of Chamber and county staff adds another layer, an expensive layer, to the big group of people who truly in their hearts believe that without themselves this county won't run.

Got some news: you're all self important.

I'm throwing my support fully behind Bill Byrne. I suspect he's the only one in the county with the backbone to fight this. And if Boyce and Savage don't see the light soon, neither deserves to win their first political seat. Someone other than our elected officials is running this county, and if the people don't stand up soon we're going to see the results: more corruption, more taxes and the entitlement mentality the chamber has become so comfortable with.
mk - cobb corruption
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January 20, 2012
Why don't ya guys spend 1.5 million /yr making Cobb Parkway attractive? Or locate an area along 285 & create a manufacturing corridor? Or encourage Lockheed to look OUTSIDE of their property line,... & the POOR conditions that have been created along that no mans land between Smyrna & Matietta.

Boggles my mind, how here in 2012, not one BIG office tower or mixed use community has shown interest, north of 285. Cobb Parkway to Windy Hill should have been created as a LIVE/work mini-town, similar to Tower Place,... but its easy to ignore what you can't see from the comfort of your East Cobb homes!!

You could have given ME the 1.5 million back in 2006, when I was coming to county meetings PLEADING for Cobb to take action in the South Cobb Drive corridor since it was clear the influx of illegals was driving south Cobbs economy into 3rd world conditions.

I requested the report from Gwinnetts Chamber, listing all their new companies, expansions, world headquarters, manufacturing over the last 2 years. It was very impressive!!

Strait up the Peachtree Industrial/I-85 Corridor!

They (over in Gwinnett) are simply more business savvy & a younger, hungrier group of business people , leading the way.

No-one wants to face the truth in Cobb- just keep that money train running down the tracks. You think money will (hide) the reality of Cobbs economy!
Ms. EAST COBBER
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January 21, 2012
It looks to me like the Cobb Chamber is hiring an agency to do their job. The EDGE program lays out some great goals for economic development, but again, that is what the Cobb Chamber is supposed to be doing anyway, right? And what exactly does Cobb's Economic Development agency do? Our commissioners need to look into this.
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