COED seeks input for strategic planning

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development is setting its sights on the future, and it needs input from local business leaders and others to put together a strategic plan for the next five years.

“The new community-wide economic development strategic blueprint will help to enhance the county’s competitiveness to attract new jobs and investment, as well as guide our economic development efforts over the next five years,” said COED President Misti Martin. “We need to assess, at least every five years, (and) look at our demographics, current trends and goals for the future and put them into a plan in order to continue moving forward and shaping our community. It is also important to hear from our citizens, city and county leaders, business leaders, educators, etc. and incorporate all of the input into a plan.”

The COED recently closed out a survey for local residents to give input and has launched a new survey seeking thoughts from local employers. The employer survey can be found at http://boyette-sa.Cherokee-Employer-Survey.sgizmo.com/s3.

Boyette Strategic Advisors, an economic development consulting firm, is handling the surveys for the COED, which hired the firm in March at a cost of $64,485, Martin said.

In addition to the surveys, Boyette Strategic Advisors is charged with providing target sector profiles, strategic recommendations and supporting documentation, including stakeholder interview/group discussion summary, online survey summary, competitive assessment with other communities, benchmark research against communities with similar demographics in metro areas and targeted sector review data, Martin said.

In addition, the firm is expected to provide an executive summary, an implementation/action plan, metrics and updated workforce information from the 2011 workforce study, Martin said.

“It is a very in-depth study,” she added.

The now-open employer survey is available online until June 18. According to a COED press release issued last week, the employer survey is seeking a range of issues and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. Results are kept confidential and only will be included in the overall summary of results.

Specifically, the study asks questions about the business sector, number of employees, employee skills, turnover, commuting, recruiting and training programs.

According to Census data, 79 percent of Cherokee’s workforce now leave the county every day to go to work, while 21 percent live and work in the county. Almost 25,000 live outside of Cherokee and commute to the county to work, Census data shows.

A workforce survey is expected to be launched at a later date, COED officials said.

In the next five to 10 years, Martin said she would like to see Cherokee thrive in the business sector and it’s primed to do so.

“Cherokee is positioned well and primed for growth,” Martin said. “Recent data from the Atlanta Regional Commission projects Cherokee County to lead the region in job growth through 2040. Over the past three years, we have seen tremendous growth from existing industries, as well as new companies. We have seen growth/interest across all of our current target sectors. We anticipate additional increases with activity/announcement as we continue to focus our efforts on creating economic opportunity for all citizens (i.e. jobs, stimulate business investment and diversify public revenue base).”

Current target sectors for the COED include customer service/technical support centers, financial services, health care, information technology, regional and corporate headquarters, advanced manufacturing, small business and film.

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