John Shern on Cobb County SPLOST
Q&A with President & CEO of The Braves Development Company Mike Plant
Watch President and CEO of The Braves Development Company, Mike Plant, talk about the Braves’ move to Cumberland and the success they have had since moving.
As the official destination marketing organization for Cobb County, Cobb Travel & Tourism works every day to bring visitors to our community. Tourism impacts Cobb in ways that are undeniable, and as the leading industry in Cobb County, tourism has significant economic impact. But in the wake of COVID-19, the hospitality and tourism industry in Cobb and across the world has felt the detrimental impact of the global pandemic.
As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times and work towards recovery, supporting the hospitality and tourism industry plays a critical role.
Although things are not “business as usual”, there are still ways to support the hospitality and tourism industry from the comfort of home, outdoors, or in small groups. We encourage you to back Cobb’s local tourism in all of the following ways:
Order Delivery, Get It To-Go, or Dine-In
Local, chef-driven restaurants have been some of the hardest hit in the wake of COVID-19. While many restaurants are beginning to reopen with social distancing guidelines, most restaurants are still offering customers the option to grab their food to-go or get it delivered. Several restaurants are offering family-sized meals, picnic-style meals, and special deals for customers that choose to dine with them in any way
From performances and tours to galleries and classes hosted by local non-profit arts and heritage organizations, there are endless ways to experience Cobb’s attractions from the comfort of home. Arts and culture organizations from around the county have found ways to bring their unique offerings directly to residents and visitors. Whether you’re a dancer, painter, singer, or theater buff, there’s a virtual experience that’s waiting for you.
Explore the Outdoors
Cobb County is home to many parks, trails, and outdoor recreation areas. Walking, hiking, and biking are great ways to get out of the house and make use of Cobb’s trail systems. Parks are perfect for picnics, giving your dog a new place to run around, or letting the kids toss a ball around in a different place.
Supporting from a distance can be just as impactful as supporting in person! Gift cards to restaurants and local shops are a great way to support small businesses now while still being able to use them later. Buy a membership or renew an expiring membership to your favorite museums, and visit when you feel comfortable. Make your reservations now for fun-filled attractions and experience the fun at a later time.
Cobb Travel & Tourism continues to actively monitor the ongoing news surrounding COVID-19. The safety and health of visitors, hospitality partners, and residents is a top priority. For the most up-to-date information on restaurant and attraction openings, be sure to reach out to the businesses directly. For more ideas of things to do while social distancing, visit travelcobb.org/blog.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Carolyn Baar – Georgia Commute Options
Eleven months of the year, Georgia Commute Options (GCO) focuses on reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road in the Atlanta region. In October, we focus on biking.
Georgia Commute Options’ sixth annual bike challenge, Biketober, exceeded all expectations. This year’s challenge saw the highest rates of participation in its history with 4,477 registrants, a 79% increase from last year’s 2,500. Of those registered, 2,811, including 500 new riders, logged trips during the month of October – compared to 1,900 in 2018.
Biketober, also known as The Atlanta Bike Challenge, is all about getting people on bikes and sharing in the fun of cycling. We heard stories from all over the region about people who experienced the benefits of incorporating cycling into their daily routine and plan to continue to ride. We strive to help bike advocates find their voices through this challenge and make biking safer and more fun for everyone by increasing the number of bikers on roads and trails in our area.
The Cumberland CID (CCID) and its members played a big role in the challenge’s success this year. The residents, commuters and visitors of CCID took advantage of all the new CID two-wheel amenities by riding the new trails and visiting the new bike share stations.
Georgia Commute Options hosted promotional activities across the district at locations including Randstad, The Galleria Atlanta, America’s Capital Partners and The Battery Atlanta. We distributed information directly to more than 5,000 commuters in the district and had personal conversations with more than 500 individuals. Fifteen companies in the district participated this year including Randstad, who awarded their participating employees wellness points.
A big draw for bikers to participate in Biketober was the chance to win one of the many prizes up for grabs. We gave away two Edison Electric Bicycles, a KHS Flite road bike from Aztec Cycles and weekly gifts including hats, T-shirts and restaurant gift certificates. In addition to promoting these prizes, our outreach activities allowed us to highlight a comprehensive list of “Where to Ride.” We used this resource to position the Cumberland CID trails as a gateway to the Silver Comet Trail, the trails in the National Parks and the ever-increasing connectivity these trails offer. We helped map trips between transit service, residential and employment centers, restaurants, retail and recreational assets in Cumberland.
With the increasing amenities for cycling, including new Zagster stations and nearly 40 miles of trails, Cumberland is the perfect place to bike. Our neighbors in Downtown and Midtown have great bike trails and amenities too, but imagine if the Cumberland CID members took this event to a new level in 2020. What if members of the CID form teams to mount corporate challenges, sponsor bike-in-movies, participate in bike-to-work days or host a Zagster-to-Lunch event? Our team at GCO stands ready to partner with you to make next years’ event bigger and better. We challenge you to incorporate Biketober into your calendar next year. Let’s raise awareness of the CID’s beautiful, walkable, bikeable district by encouraging our community to get out and ride next October.
Check out all of the results of the challenge at the Atlanta Bike Challenge and get your gears turning for next Fall. Are you in?