Sponsor the Cumberland Community Meeting - March 2nd

Year: 2020

Q&A with Cobb Chamber President & CEO Sharon Mason on COVID-19

What are some of the common struggles businesses and companies are experiencing during this time?

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses across numerous industries in Cobb, our state, country and world. From the onset of the crisis, small business owners, non-profits and corporate executives have faced lost revenue and the challenge of keeping their lights on. Some businesses have had to adopt new protocol, lay off workers, reduce expenses, work through supply chain challenges, and market themselves in new ways overnight. Now as businesses prepare to reopen, leaders are working to locate thermometers and source PPE, and reconfiguring their work spaces to promote social distancing while welcoming customers and employees. I have seen businesses take a variety of approaches to keeping their employees paid and try to stay in business.

Despite facing such uncertainty and daily challenges, I have been so proud of our community. I have seen leaders stepping up to work together for innovative solutions and new ways to keep people working, to keep serving clients, and to help our neighbors who need it most.

How will the Cobb Chamber Economic Recovery Taskforce help the community and businesses in Cobb County?

Starting with the early days of the crisis, we have continued to hear from businesses about how devastating this has been for them. That is why our 2020 Chamber Chairman John Loud of LOUD Security Systems, our Chair-Elect Britt Fleck of Georgia Power, and I created our Economic Recovery Taskforce to work on both short-term and long-term solutions for rebuilding our economy. The taskforce is comprised of community leaders and business leaders across all sizes and industries especially those most impacted. We have been meeting weekly since this started in March to develop strategic approaches to help businesses move toward recovery.

The taskforce has been instrumental in many initiatives including launching and implementing our weekly business recovery webinars for the last six weeks, gathering input from all types of businesses to determine support needed, finding resources that help businesses navigate handling this crisis, championing advocacy needs for businesses especially for loans and grants, and developing the reopening guidelines to help businesses prepare to safely reopen.

What guidelines and safety precautions should businesses consider before returning to work?

Our Economic Recovery Taskforce has outlined guidelines in partnership with Cobb Douglas Public Health. The guidelines cover how to prepare and protect your work space and your employees, how to protect customers, and how to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The guidelines take into consideration daily health tests, sanitization, reconfiguring the workspace to allow for social distancing, and a number of other recommendations on how their space could be reimagined to be as safe as possible for employees and visitors.These guidelines along with other reopening resources can be found at https://covidsupport.cobbchamber.org/reopening-guidelines.

How quickly do you think the Cobb County and regional economy will recover? What should businesses expect?

While it is uncertain how long the recovery will take, our SelectCobb team have seen a significant increase in companies looking to relocate to Cobb and our region specifically during the COVID-19 crisis. This is a very positive sign for our recovery. With the crisis impacting companies financially across the globe, many are reconsidering where they can most effectively do business. Georgia has been named by Site Selector Magazine as the number one state to do business seven years in a row due to many factors such as low taxes, low cost of living and our pro-business environment. Cobb has been intentional to be a top place for businesses across industries and have set the stage for continued growth. Having these new companies relocate to Cobb and Georgia will boost our economy.

Also, with businesses starting to open back up, this will help rebuild our economy and that’s why our economic recovery taskforce worked with Cobb & Douglas Public Health to develop the reopening guidelines to mitigate the continued spread of the virus. It will be important that as businesses open back up, that we all support and buy from our local businesses to help them recover.

What are some of the resources that businesses/companies can take advantage of during COVID-19?

The Cobb Chamber has been focused on providing resources, advocacy and support through every step of this crisis. To provide timely resources to businesses and our community, we worked with DynamiX to develop a one-stop resources page at https://covidsupport.cobbchamber.org/. This is update daily with information on the federal stimulus package and other financial resources, business recovery resources, helpful webinars and virtual events, links to job opportunities, reopening guidance, and resources from many partners.

The Chamber also launched Cobb Shops To Go, https://www.facebook.com/CobbShopsToGo/, giving restaurants and retailers a platform on Facebook to promote their deals and broaden their social media audience and reach.

And, the Chamber continues to provide virtual programming that our business community needs now more than ever. We’ve brought together voices from various industries to share insight into financial recovery, marketing, reopening plans, rewriting business plans, and all aspects of leadership. Our signature monthly event series, Marquee Monday, is taking a virtual format this month. On May 11, our Chairman John Loud is interviewing the top executives from Atlanta’s professional sports teams – the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Falcons, and Atlanta United – to give us all a boost and a collective rally cry for businesses around the region. All of these programs are free for all to attend and you can register at https://www.cobbchamber.org/calendars/chamber-calendar.aspx?OE=True.

How can business or individuals help the community during this time?

As our community moves toward recovery, there are more ways to help local businesses and non-profits. If you’re missing your favorite restaurants, shops, and other service providers, check in with them by phone or social media to determine how to best support them whether in person, to-go orders, or purchasing gift cards to use later.

There are several community funds that support important initiatives that you can support including Operation Meal Plan, Cobb COVID-19 Community Response Fund, and other funds set up to support our schools, healthcare and more.

Operation Meal Plan is a partnership between the Cobb Chamber, Cobb Community Foundation and the Center for Family Resources to keep restaurants afloat while sourcing meals to non-profits providing hunger relief. Businesses and community members can donate to a fund to support the program. To date, Operation Meal Plan has served more than 11,000 meals by 21 participating restaurants to 23 non-profits. The need for this program is growing, so donations are appreciated. You can learn more at https://covidsupport.cobbchamber.org/operation-meal-plan.

The Cobb Community Foundation has also established the Cobb COVID-19 Community Response Fund as a vehicle to support non-profit organizations serving Cobb as they respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Contributions to this fund will be distributed swiftly as needs arise. CCF has intentionally established this fund with flexibility in mind to ensure that these resources may support communities as conditions, circumstances, and needs change throughout this crisis.

For more details on supporting our non-profits, schools, healthcare and more: https://covidsupport.cobbchamber.org/covid-19-resources.

What general advice would you give small businesses and companies during this time?

Please know that the Cobb Chamber will continue to be here for you and to help this community overcome. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources we have, lean on the network you have or can create through involvement with the Cobb Chamber, and look for ways to help others.

COVID-19 Resources & Support

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, our staff remains committed to our job while following all safety precautions. We are closely monitoring reports from governing authorities, and we will continue to seek guidance from public health officials in consideration of our ongoing projects.

This webpage is to help keep you informed on COVID-19 resources. Below are helpful resources to help ensure you, your business, and family are safe and informed. Together, we will get through this.

If you need help finding business resources or have #CumberlandGoodNews you would like to share with us, please email ccid@cumberlandcid.org


Updated daily, the Cobb Chamber has links to resources for small businesses and community members regarding SBA loans, employee assistance, how to support local non-profits, and so much more. View help resources.

Business Impact Survey

The Cobb Chamber is gathering information regarding the impact COVID-19 is having on your business. This will help us support you with appropriate resources, programming and advocacy efforts to offer assistance both immediately, and following the crisis. 

Webinars with the Cobb Chamber
Click here for the full calendar of upcoming webinars, related to how your business can cope with COVID-19.

Companies are Hiring
View this list of companies with job opportunities.


Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce has extended the county’s State of Emergency declaration until April 24. Click here to read more.

Governor Kemp has extended the Shelter in Place order through the end of April. Read about this extention here.

The Cobb Chamber has started an Economic Recovery Taskforce to develop and implement a strategic approach to proactively drive our community’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Learn more here.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that individuals and corporations can delay their tax payments for 90 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to read more.

Federal Updates: For more information on the COVID-19 Federal Stimulus plan, click here.

Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced up to $2.3 trillion in additional loans to support the economy. Click here to read more.

The following Congressional Offices offer the following COVID-19 resources: Senator David Perdue, Senator Kelly Loeffler, Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Congressman Barry Loudermilk & Congressman David Scott


In light of the challenges that have arisen, the Cobb Community Foundation has created the Cobb COVID-19 Community Response Fund. This fund will provide flexible resources to non-profit organizations serving Cobb through charitable grants to those organizations working to provide residents with access to food, prescriptions/healthcare, childcare and basic needs as conditions, circumstances, and needs change throughout this crisis.  
Comcast announces comprehensive COVID-19 response to help keep Americans connected to the internet. Read here
Many of Cumberland’s landmarks are lit in beautiful blue to honor and thank all of our frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus, the Board of Directors and staff of the Cumberland CID have determined it a responsible cautionary decision to cancel the Thursday, March 26, 2020, regular board meeting to ensure the health and safety of all members and guests attending. In addition, the Cumberland CID office will be closed until Monday, March 30th.

We appreciate your understanding and hope everyone remains well during this time.

Express Lanes

by Tim Matthews, MMIP Manager – Georgia Department of Transportation

Commuters in Georgia are probably familiar with managed lanes. From hot lanes to toll lanes to express lanes, all are part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP). The MMIP, created in 2015 by the Transportation Funding Act passed by the Georgia General Assembly, is an $11 billion initiative, focused on improving statewide mobility and building a connected transportation network. As the program manager at GDOT, I have the incredible opportunity to work with the MMIP to help solve some of Georgia’s biggest transportation infrastructure challenges.

Under the MMIP network is Georgia’s express lanes initiative. First derived from the concept of managed lanes, an express lane is a paid option for a commuter or transit customer to bypass congestion for a free-flowing commute. Today, the MMIP includes five express lane projects, one of which is part of the hugely successful I-75 Northwest Corridor.

In the I-75 Northwest Corridor Express Lanes’ first year alone, the corridor has seen a one hour reduction in rush hour commutes and more than seven million commuters. Additionally, those express lanes are 20% faster than the general purpose lanes during peak travel times and speeds in the general purpose lanes are up to 20 mph faster than before the express lanes opened.

Because of this demonstrated success, we couldn’t be more excited about the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project. These new express lanes will feature the first dedicated travel lanes for commuters with the overall goal to improve mobility along the northern portion of I-285, one of the most heavily-traveled and congested interstate highways in the nation.

This project is broken down into two parts: I-285 Top End West Express Lanes and I-285 Top End East Express Lanes. The east portion of the top end lanes will start construction in 2023 and will be open to commuters in 2028 while the western portion will begin construction in 2026 and will open to commuters in 2032.

For Cumberland, the I-285 Top-End Express Lanes will open many opportunities for the region by giving commuters another travel option along with the experience of faster, easier travel. New transit prospects for commuters may also be revealed as bus services achieve more reliable travel times.

At GDOT, we will continue to work to boost Georgia’s competitiveness via transportation and help deliver a transit network focused on innovation, safety, sustainability and mobility. While this task may not be easy, we are committed to our goals. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for transportation in Georgia.


Tim Matthews is a registered professional engineer and has almost 18 years of experience in the highway industry including Roadway Engineering and Program/Project Management.

For more information on the MMIP visit their website at majormobilityga.com.

by Barry Teague, Treasurer – Cumberland CID; Principal – Walton Communities

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Cumberland area was primarily a 9-5 commuter environment where people traveled to the district for work and returned to their home communities in the evening. You rarely even saw restaurants and businesses in the district open at night because there was no demand for services. However, in the past 10 years, Cumberland has become a vibrant community not only where people work and visit, but also where more than 29,000 people call home.

Barry Teague
Barry Teague

Two reasons for the increase in residents within the CID is the correlating rise of multi-family housing options and the opening of The Battery Atlanta, home to Truist Park, which has positioned the CID as a recreational destination rather than simply a commuter hub. Mixed-use developments like The Battery have made the district an attractive residential option, especially to millennials and Generation Xers, who comprise 68% of the CID’s residents today.

Further evidence comes from our recent Economic Impact Analysis, which showed that the district’s population is growing at 2% annually, 1.6 times the rate of Cobb County and faster than the Atlanta region as a whole. While there are many factors that sparked this population rise, one factor is the Cumberland CID’s efforts to make the district more accessible and connected – from trails to infrastructure improvements.

The Cumberland trail network is a great example of providing connectivity and a sense of place in our district. In July of last year, the CID opened a one-mile extension of the Bob Callan Trail, increasing the trail to three miles for cyclists, runners and walkers to enjoy. In 2020, construction for the final mile of the Bob Callan Trail will begin. The Bob Callan Trail is part of a 60-mile network of multi-use trails that are existing, under development and planned in and around the Cumberland area. The Cumberland trail network connects to the Silver Comet Trail, Mountain-To-River Trail, Noonday Creek Trail, and, once fully built out, will connect to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Along with our work on the Cumberland trail network, the CID focuses on infrastructure improvements to better facilitate four-wheeled transportation in and around the district. The I-75 northwest corridor express lanes are a great example of how the CID and its partners have dramatically improved mobility in the area. The project reduced both morning and evening rush hour by more than an hour! Less time commuting means more recreation time and more potential time and money spent in the CID.

While these trails and infrastructure projects are major achievements, we must not stop there. Over the course of the next 10 years, my vision is for the CID to continue to develop ways to connect and make our district more accessible. Whether that is trails, bridges or strategic infrastructure projects, we must be committed to our vision. Making our district more connected will continue to open opportunities and encourage businesses and new residents to flock here. While we have a lot of work to do, I couldn’t be more excited about the future.

Aerial view of SunTrust park

Last month, the Cumberland CID released the latest version of its Cumberland CID Economic Impact Analysis.

Ultimately, the analysis shows the Cumberland CID has achieved a stunning $15.3 billion annual economic impact on Cobb County representing a significant share of Cobb County’s economy and a $20 billion annual economic impact on the state of Georgia.

Conducted by Bleakly Advisory Group, the analysis concluded that there was $9.2 billion of direct economic impact annually from the goods and services produced and sold in the Cumberland CID. Because of this impact, the Cumberland CID has unlocked a wealth of economic opportunity not only in the region itself, but in the state as a whole.

Ultimately, if we had to sum up all of the good news in one word, it would likely be growth. In the past decade, an additional 14,450 primary jobs were added to the Cumberland CID, representing a 27% increase from one decade ago. The Cumberland CID has nearly 3,400 businesses with about 69,000 employees, which represents almost 19% of the jobs in Cobb County. Approximately 33% of the available jobs are in high-wage professional sectors like information, finance and insurance, management of companies and professional scientific and technical services.   

The growth isn’t just related to the output of businesses in the Cumberland CID. The actual population within the district has grown two percent year over year, which is 1.6 times the rate of Cobb County and faster than the Atlanta region as a whole. Now, the Cumberland CID is the home to nearly 29,000 residents. Furthermore, 68% of those residents are millennials and Generation X.

While more job opportunities could be a large reason for this impressive population growth in the Cumberland CID, it also may be due to the increased amount of services spending for the district’s residents. According to the analysis, the Cumberland CID produces annual revenues to Cobb County of $61 million and estimated annual costs of $34 million, representing a net fiscal benefit of $27 million. Properties and economic activity within the Cumberland CID also generate about $70 million for Cobb County schools.

Essentially, the Cumberland CID creates a win-win-win for businesses, residents and the county. Businesses are able to tap into a massive inventory of commercial real estate and hire a talented workforce. Residents can work with great companies and receive the benefits of increased public spending.

Whether you live or work in the Cumberland CID or are simply interested in the topic, it is worth your time to further study why the Cumberland CID has been successful.

by John Shern, Chairman – Cumberland CID; Vice President of Construction – The Home Depot, Inc (Retired)

Thirty-one years ago, when renowned Atlanta developer John Williams invited me to become involved in the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s formation, I had no idea that the Cumberland district would become the booming economic hub that it is today. We were the first CID in Georgia, and though there was a clear need for one, there was no model for us to follow, so honestly, we made it up as we went along.

John Shern Headshot
John Shern

Initially the CID had no money. We were in the planning phase and I was one of the planners. We knew who had the money and who was in the position to spend the money, so our job at the beginning was to do all the preliminary work to put ourselves in a position to receive those state and federal funds. Our focus at the time was on infrastructure improvements. We started as road builders, and though that is still true today, we’ve expanded our focus beyond building roads to creating trails, parks and building community.

Developments like The Battery – a forward-thinking, forward-looking and groundbreaking development – have had a wonderful impact on the district. It’s essentially a self-contained community centered around entertainment with retail, restaurants, and residents all within walking distance. We’re seeing this model pop up in other areas of metro Atlanta and it’s encouraging. I believe walkable communities are the developments of the future. The “live where you work” or “live where you play” idea is not a new concept. However, this idea is being executed much better today than ever before. We have to respond to the constituents’ demands. If they want to walk more, we will expand sidewalks – and that’s what we’re doing.

The CID will continue to study transportation and mobility and prioritize the findings to execute the solutions and accomplish its goals. Transportation needs to be connected to the things that are important. We’re seeking the best answer to the first/last mile concept because commuters need to easily get to work and turn around and get home. Trains might never make it up to Cumberland, so what’s the alternative? Bus transit? That failed in Los Angeles and there’s a bias to overcome. Autonomous vehicles may also be a game-changer – but there’s a liability issue. These are all things that we need to overcome, and that will happen when the best answer is found through transit studies.

Along those lines, we are currently working on a paved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly loop connecting the four quadrants within Cumberland Boulevard and Akers Mill Road. Another one of our upcoming projects connects the I-75 Express Lanes to Akers Mill Road. We are still very much planners, as we were 31 years ago, but now we have the means to execute, therefore we have to be smart about it. Cumberland CID’s goal is to continue facilitating projects that bring value to our existing constituents and surrounding community throughout 2020 and the years ahead.

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