Development, training, mentoring are at the heart of this agency.
Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) President Misti Martin shared the economic state of the county recently, highlighting successes that make Cherokee County the fastest growing county in metro Atlanta.
Martin presented a video in which officials from several companies (Yanmar, The Mill On Etowah, Reformation Brewery) discussed starting new ventures or reimagining their business development in Cherokee County with the help of COED and Fresh Start Cherokee, a COED initiative designed to provide educational programming and support for startups.
“We are supporting entrepreneurs who are big dreamers. From The Circuit, our partnership with Chattahoochee Tech and Woodstock Economic Development, to our NAV program — the North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service — principled and trained by MIT,” Martin said.
The NAV Mentoring Service is a team-based mentoring model and the first of its kind in the state. Here are some quick stats:
• 24 mentors/7 ventures. The numbers will rise because there are 11 additional ventures and 7 additional mentors who have applied to the program. Innovators range from a virtual reality health care startup to makers such as the American Cuckoo Clock Co.
• 71% of ventures are minority- or women-led.
• 6 countries are represented.
• 25% of NAV mentors are minorities.
Partnership With Cherokee Schools
Martin credited the Cherokee County School District, and specifically Superintendent Brian Hightower, with providing a strong school system to make the county attractive to families moving here for business startups or employment. Some highlights of the partnership:
• The Cherokee Workforce Collaborative connects education and industry with real-world experiences and knowledge, closing the soft skills gap and preparing young people for careers — whether it’s one that requires a four-year degree or a certification from a skilled trade.
• In 2020, COED is launching a skilled professions awareness campaign that it hopes will spread throughout the region and state. This campaign will feature top trade jobs with 10% or more growth potential in Cherokee as well as an interactive mobile workforce workshop.
• Last summer, 13 paid high school internships were offered to local students, who were able to cross-train through departments, running machines and working in IT.
• Creatives, filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers are connected with real-world experience through the Cherokee Film Summit. January’s Student Film Summit attracted 121 students, with 240 attendees at the professional summit.
Keeping Residents Working in Cherokee
COED is committed to developing the local workforce to keep workers local, to keep more of the 78% of residents who leave the county for work closer to home. Martin notes that 97% of out-commuters said they wanted to work in their home community.
• The Cherokee Career Expo, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Labor, will be held March 18 at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center in Canton. More than 80% of the 410 people who attended last year were Cherokee residents, many whom currently commute, and they were looking for a job in their home community.
• The careers section on the COED website features 10 hot jobs in Cherokee, as well as a database for searching for jobs by using key words.
Home for New Businesses
COED has been involved in developing The Mill on Etowah, Cherokee 75 Corporate Park, The Bluffs, and areas around the Cherokee County Regional Airport, to attract new businesses, as well as investing in each of Cherokee’s cities.
Health care developments include the $500 million Northside Hospital campus and the new WellStar Cherokee Health Park at Holly Springs.
Speculative buildings are being developed across the county to house new and expanding business, and added focus is being put into office and multi-use recruitment. COED partnered with Pendleton Consulting Group to develop an action for office recruitment, while also conducting a countywide technology and infrastructure study. “Information gathered in these studies will equip us to better grow office and technology jobs in Cherokee,” Martin said.
“I think we can all agree that Cherokee County is a special place. We will continue to grow and innovate without losing our authenticity.”
Martin ended by encouraging attendees to be ambassadors for Cherokee.
For more information on COED, visit www.cherokeega.org.
– The Cherokee Office of Economic Development is the leading organization for business and film recruitment and industry retention & expansion. www.cherokeega.org.