Visionary communities like Cobb County practice the same philosophy. That same critical question was the one we asked when we launched Cobb’s Competitive EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) — “How can we as a community do better tomorrow than we did today?” The answer is a five-year economic and community development strategy that is holistic in its approach and historic in its impact for Cobb and metro Atlanta.
Cobb has reached a critical juncture in its history. Competition for jobs and talent is more intense than ever in the wake of the “Great Recession” and Cobb has been hit harder than the average county nationwide, having lost more than 35,000 jobs since 2007. While other communities have increased their capacity to support effective economic development, Cobb County has been hindered by its lack of a collaborative, coordinated and deliberate strategic approach to economic development.
What Is It?
Cobb’s Competitive EDGE is a five-year community-wide economic development initiative created by the Cobb Chamber and its partners in education, government and economic development for the benefit of the entire Cobb community that creates a consensus vision for Cobb’s future growth and an action plan to achieve it. The initiative was based on the strategic implications of extensive quantitative and qualitative research performed by Market Street Services, including a Competitive Assessment, a Target Cluster Analysis, and public input reaching more than 1,800 residents, workers and business owners in Cobb County. It represents a bold call-to-arms for Cobb’s leaders unmatched in our county’s history. It will result in increased job growth, increased incomes, increased educational attainment levels and reduced unemployment and poverty rates. It is focused around these “Seven Seeds for Success.”
Retaining and Expanding Existing Businesses
This seed focuses on strategies specifically related to generating and sustaining local high-wage jobs in the target industries of Aerospace and Advanced Equipment Manufacturing; Information Technology and Software; Professional and Business Services; and Wholesale Trade, as well as the growth opportunity target industries of Health Care Services; Travel and Tourism; and Bioscience. Action steps to achieve success in these areas include creating a comprehensive business retention and expansion program to keep existing businesses growing in Cobb and from relocating elsewhere.
Encouraging Entrepreneurship and Aiding Small Business
This seed will enhance the supportive infrastructure for small businesses and entrepreneurs through action items like the creation of a collaborative co-work and early-stage incubation facility, and a Capital Support Group to improve access to traditional and alternative sources of capital.
Cultivating Community Identities and a Sense of Place
Quality of life and a community’s “sense of place” are among the most important factors considered by potential employees and employers when determining where to live, work and do business. Action steps include creating “Identity Improvement Ideas” for each downtown and activity center, developing public space improvements that support community gatherings, and supporting new events attractive to young singles and families.
Investing in Transportation Infrastructure and Traffic Relief
Traffic congestion is the single greatest challenge facing existing residents and businesses in Cobb County. This goal focuses on a variety of initiatives that seek to advance the implementation of key infrastructure projects and encourage changes in commuter behavior and work schedules that can help reduce congestion.
Supporting and Coordinating Redevelopment Efforts
Much of the county — particularly south Cobb — is home to aging infrastructure, housing and industrial development that are primed for redevelopment. With appropriate reinvestment, these areas can be revitalized, benefitting existing and potential future residents and businesses. Action steps include mobilizing the business community in south Cobb to support the numerous local redevelopment initiatives, establishing a land bank authority to acquire tax delinquent and blighted properties in support of redevelopment objectives, hosting redevelopment days to showcase properties, and transforming the area around Six Flags Over Georgia into a multi-destination center for travel and tourism.
Developing, Retaining and Recruiting Talent
This seed will focus on developing, retaining and recruiting talent that supports the competitiveness of Cobb’s strategic economic development targets. Action steps include forming a Business Education Partnership to facilitate collaboration between the private sector and education institutions, developing a fellowship program to retain the county’s best and brightest college graduates, and developing a set of Summer Academies for high school students interested in career paths supporting the county’s strategic targets.
Marketing Cobb County and Projecting a Positive Image
Economic development practitioners and partners need to effectively communicate the competitive advantages that make the county and its distinct communities attractive to live, work and do business. Action steps include developing a brand identity for economic development in Cobb County, developing a best practice economic development website targeted to specific audiences, and launching a national public relations campaign to increase awareness of Cobb’s unique assets.
The time is now for Cobb to take a strong step forward toward sustainable, long-term economic prosperity for its companies and residents. The time is now for Cobb to competitively compete for quality jobs.
The time is now to propel Cobb forward from good to great.
Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics General Manager Shan Cooper, WellStar Sr. VP of Public and Government Affairs Kim Menefee and Kaiser Permanente’s VP of Marketing and Regional Strategy Dan Styf are Co-Chairs of the Cobb’s Competitive EDGE Steering Committee. It includes elected officials, private employers, K-12 and higher education officials and representatives of Cobb’s for-profit and non-profit business community. Access the EDGE strategy at www.cobbedge.com.