The county’s population increased by 9,600 residents from April 2013 to April 2014 to reach a total of 717,100 residents, according to a population estimate by the ARC.
That’s up from last year’s report, when Cobb’s population grew by 8,000 residents from 2012 to 2013.
Only Fulton and Gwinnett attracted more residents from 2013-14 than Cobb, but all 10 counties included in the study experienced growth. Fulton added 12,700 new residents and Gwinnett added 11,900.
County Commissioner Bob Ott said Cobb’s third-place finish is positive.
“I think that’s a manageable number. I would be concerned if it was a whole lot higher because you can start taxing the infrastructure of schools and things like that,” Ott said.
Cobb’s growth was a portion of the 52,700 residents added to the Atlanta region, bringing the metro population to 4,272,300.
The slow and steady growth of the region is something the ARC views as a success for the Atlanta area. In a statement about the numbers, the group called last year the biggest growth increase since the Great Recession, but still “dramatically lower” than the kind of population growth recorded between 1990 and 2010.
Every county except Clayton grew more from 2013-14 than it did between 2010-13, according to the report. Other counties included in the report were Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette, Henry and Rockdale, as well as the city of Atlanta.
Why is Cobb growing?
Ott said he has been pleased to see more people move to Cobb and filling up housing complexes.
“It’s consistent with what I see with new development and also apartment occupancy,” he said.
Ott said most apartment complexes in his east Cobb district are about 90 percent full, which is up from 80 percent during the recession.
“And that’s good, because when apartments are above 90 percent, they have money to do repairs and renovate,” he said.
With more residents come more entertainment and food options, Ott said.
“In east Cobb, we have four or five new restaurants from a year or a year and a half ago,” Ott said.
Ben Mathis, chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, said Cobb’s population growth also means people who move here want to stay.
“I’m glad to see the numbers picking up,” Mathis said. “A lot of people have been working very hard to make sure the county is a place for people to move but also for people to stay.”
Mathis said retaining residents and companies after they move in is one of the chamber’s goals.
“It’s a very competitive environment for other companies to move, and we’ve been extremely successful in keeping companies here, and when they stay here, they expand, and that’s just as good as someone moving here,” Mathis said.
For instance, Home Depot and the Weather Channel both call Cobb home and provide stable jobs, Mathis said.
The chamber’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy initiative, which is a strategy to attract businesses to the county with global marketing, has created 10,700 jobs in the county since it was created in 2012, said Brooks Mathis, chamber vice president.
Those jobs are mostly in the technology and software industries, and they’re often coming to the Cumberland area in southeast Cobb, Brooks Mathis said.
Brooks Mathis said other areas of Cobb attract different industries, such as data centers and office space in Town Center, manufacturing and distribution in south Cobb and Smyrna, and technology and manufacturing in Marietta.
“Cobb is unique. We can offer something for every industry, which makes our community attractive and also provides us the ability to keep taxes low because our tax base is diversified,” Brooks Mathis said.
Who are the newcomers?
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, said the types of technology jobs available in southeast Cobb are attracting young people below the age of 30.
“A lot of the people that are qualified for those types of jobs are young people,” Leithead said. “A lot of people who have graduated from college in the Southeast come to Atlanta.”
Ben Mathis said the chamber wants to attract that demographic to Cobb.
“Something we’re very interested in that maybe those (population growth) numbers don’t reflect is we’re creating an environment that young people are attracted to the county,” Ben Mathis said. “You want Cobb to be a place that young people want to come to take their first job because if we don’t get them then, there’s a good chance we won’t get them at all.”
Ben Mathis said it’s harder to attract people living in other areas surrounding Atlanta to transfer to Cobb.
“That’s why we’re really excited about the Braves stadium because it’s got that mixed-use development that young people will be attracted to,” he said.
When young people come to Cobb, though, Leithead said they don’t follow the trends of older generations.
“Their purchasing choices are very different,” Leithead said. “There’s a huge trend among those ages that they don’t want to buy a house. They want to rent.”
That’s why 1,000 units of multi-family apartment-style housing are under construction in Cumberland, Leithead said.
How Cobb is expanding
One way the ARC measured the growth of each county’s population was by how many building permits are given out during the year.
“After permitting nearly 35,000 new residential units each year for the past 30 years (in the 10-county area surrounding Atlanta), there were only 18,400 new residential units permitted last year,” according to the report.
Leithead said residential permits could have gone down because the young people moving to Cobb aren’t ready to settle down and buy a house. They want something temporary, he said.
“You’re not seeing a growth in single-family homes, hence the reduction in building permits,” Leithead said. “But there is expansion in (the) multi-family apartment sector.”
Ott said land is beginning to get scarce in many areas of Cobb, so instead of building new structures, many companies are redeveloping areas in the county.
“In east Cobb, there’s really not a lot of land left, so it’s more redevelopment than new development,” Ott said.
Ott said other counties have more open land waiting to be developed, which could have allowed them to grow at a faster rate than Cobb.
“I’m not surprised by those numbers,” Ott said. “In Fulton County, they have some new cities like Johns Creek and Brookhaven, so some of it is having land and an opportunity for growth.”