Economic Director Reports County Thriving

Cherokee County Office of Economic Development President Misti Martin shared the latest on the economic success of Cherokee County at Tuesday’s Canton Rotary Club meeting.

Cherokee is on track for more jobs, expansion of local industry and new businesses locating to the county, she said.

About 77 percent of the community’s industries plan to expand within the next three years with a potential capital investment of over $88 million, Martin said.

Martin said her and her team have looked at what industries are growing in Georgia and the Southeast and North America and looked to see where the most growth potential could be in Cherokee.

There are a lot of high-end target jobs with five specific sectors, advanced manufacturing, commercial developers, corporate operations, film and media and information technology, Martin said.

“The one sector that is interesting to me is this commercial developers and I kind of hit the brakes on this one. I understand that we need more Class-A office space in Cherokee, but I’ve never seen commercial development listed as a target sector,” she said. “Our consultant said, ‘You have to focus on this. In order to reduce that 78 percent out-commute, you have to have offices for folks to work in.’”

Martin said Northside Hospital-Cherokee opening in the spring of 2017 is close to a $300 million investment.

“We did a fiscal impact analysis last year just on the medical office building, not even taking the actual hospital into consideration and it was an $8.4 million net present value,” she said. “We’re thrilled for that investment and the confidence that Northside has shown Cherokee County.”

Cherokee has had 67 business prospects this year to date, three away from the 2015 record and 61 film prospects, according to Martin.

“The state has camera-ready partners in each of the communities across the state and we are the camera-ready liaison for Cherokee, so we work with the Georgia Film Office on tons of different projects,” she said. “Three coming up that were specifically filmed in Canton are “Hidden Figures,” “The Founder,” “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” and “Ozark,” which is currently filming.”

Martin, who was named among North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers earlier this year said enhancing organizational capacity, expanding and retaining existing businesses, adding personnel to their team and recruiting new businesses are the main focuses for her and her staff moving forward.

“People ask me all the time how do you get new prospects? How do new prospects show up at the door? Relationships; we work the people that work the projects, whether it’s the real estate brokers, site location consultants, project managers that work statewide,” Martin said. “We make sure they know what we have to offer in Cherokee County and that’s our job and also to stay in touch with our existing industries in hopes that they will expand and bring suppliers.”

Martin said the Industry Incentive Program has been a driving factor in bringing in and keeping companies in Cherokee County.

“Incentives became the name of the game and many companies were talking about jumping county lines in order to get incentives,” she said. “Why are we not taking care of the businesses that we have in Cherokee already? Piolax is the poster child for that program because they continue to add millions in investments every year and we are thrilled for them to open their new automated warehouse in Canton.”

The general rule of thumb is that 65 to 70 percent of new investment and job creation comes from existing industry, Martin said.

“That’s why we spend so much time making sure our businesses are successful because they are employing our residents, they are paying taxes and they are supporting our downtown businesses,” she said. “Cherokee is averaging over 70 percent. Specifically in the Canton area, businesses have been here over 35 years and we are recruiting companies into the county, that’s a number they like to hear.”

Georgia Power and the Georgia Resource Center produced a 3D video of the Bluffs and how future companies could thrive in the unique area.

Martin said although prospects cannot yet drive to those future sites in The Bluffs peninsula, visuals are key factors to promote projects for future Cherokee companies.

The Cherokee workforce that partners with nearby schools and universities will soon offer more co-op and internship opportunities in the county, Martin said.

“We’re trying to figure out how do we retain the students that are so talented coming out of Cherokee County school district as well as our higher education facilities to come back and have the opportunity to work in their own community,” she said.

Martin said the Office of Economic Development will look for more team members in the near future.

“As the activity has gone up, we know we need to add personnel to our organization and we are going to be doing that in the next few months,” she said. “Working behind the scenes on projects is where I’m most comfortable, but people have to know what you are doing in order to support you so we are trying to enhance those communications efforts as well as marketing so that the people inside and outside of the community know what we have to offer.”