The Cherokee Office of Economic Development works with businesses considering setting up operations in Cherokee County and businesses wishing to expand.
Earlier this year, Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens and COED President Misti Martin began making their rounds to cities in the county and asking the city councils to contribute to the office’s budget for the next three years to help bump up efforts to attract new businesses.
They hope for contributions from Canton, Woodstock, Holly Springs, Waleska and Ball Ground. Canton and Woodstock have been asked for the greatest amount of $20,000 to $25,000 per year each.
So far, none of the cities have made a firm commitment, Ahrens said, but the city of Canton has shown the most positive response, saying it will look at the possibility of contributing when the next annual budget is reviewed.
Ahrens said last week that the hope was that contributions from the cities would bring the COED’s annual budget up by $100,000. Whatever amount was needed to reach $100,000 after each of the contributions from the cities, Cherokee County would make up.
Now, Ahrens said, the hopeful number has gone up to $120,000 each year, for three years, with the county matching the total city contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $60,000.
Ahrens said the money would go to an additional staff member for COED and more advertising to bring new business to Cherokee County.
Martin said last week that the staff member would be a project manager.
Ahrens laid out his simple reasoning for why
the additional funding is needed.
“Misti Martin’s group has had a significant increase in the number of projects that they’re having to deal with,” he said. “That’s all good news. The bad news is that they’ve had the same budget and level of personnel since 2007.”
The COED’s budget is now about $300,000 a year. Ahrens said that number is “rock bottom” when you compare it to that of other Georgia counties of similar sizes.
Bibb County, he said, has a lower population than Cherokee County but budgets around $600,000 for its economic development office.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said a $60,000 contribution from the county wouldn’t “break the budget.”
County Manager Jerry Cooper agreed and said he could easily take the money from the county conference center on Bluffs Parkway by making its employee copy center self-service and by not renewing an expired $75,000 agreement with a contractor who oversaw operations there.
During Tuesday’s meeting the board also:
n Voted unanimously to approve to move $78,552 from the county’s dissolved court pre-trial department to state court and court administration budgets. The transfer does not raise county expenses, Cooper said;
n Unanimously approved the submission of a grant application for fiscal year 2014 in the amount of $16,527 for county drug and DUI courts. The county has received the grant annually since 2006. Cooper said the funding will be used for drug testing supplies and employee training;
n Unanimously approved the intent to turn in a grant application to Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for funding to establish a mental health court in Cherokee. The grant would be for one year in the amount of about $163,000; and
n Unanimously approved the purchase of $48,445 in office furniture and supplies from Staples for the Cherokee County Aquatic Center.