“This program, EDGE, is the most important initiative we as a community can take on in 2013,” Lee said. “It is imperative that we all take part in its execution and its success. It is vitally important to the long-term success of our great county.”
The Chamber unveiled its EDGE program — modeled on a similar program used by Gwinnett County — to great fanfare in 2011, envisioning a public-private partnership worth $4 million for the next five years. The program would have a total impact of 16,454 new jobs and a payroll impact of $796 million, according to the Chamber.
But the Chamber miscalculated the level of enthusiasm for the program, especially when it came to the $500,000 per year in public dollars it was hoping to see come its way from the county government, local cities and two local school boards. It got quick “No”s from Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, the school superintendents and most of the cities. The only county commissioner to show enthusiasm for it was Lee.
After the elected officials declined to pony up, the Chamber put the EDGE on its backburner.
THERE’S NO QUESTION that Cobb needs to be competitive when it comes to economic development. As Lee noted in his speech, businesses don’t land here just by chance anymore.
And the Chamber and Lee have now put the EDGE program back on the front burner. Indeed, the Chamber has quietly raised $630,000 from private sources for the program in the past year or so, an indication of just how important they think it is.
Lee did not specifically say on Monday that he thinks tax dollars should be used to pay for the EDGE. And we hope it doesn’t come to that.
As Lee correctly stated, it will take a community-wide effort to keep Cobb competitive going forward. And our local governments and school boards can do their part by keeping taxes low, providing quality services more efficiently, minimizing red tape for business and by maintaining quality public education systems.
With the economic outlook still highly uncertain, budget holes to fill, take-home pay going down and health-care costs going up, this is not the time to be diverting tax dollars away from the core missions of local government.
* THE CHAMBER’S COMPETITIVE EDGE PROGRAM may well give Cobb a competitive edge, and we wish it success. But it’s a program that needs to be supported financially by private funds, not public dollars.