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Should Cities Contribute To Cherokee Office Of Economic Development?

Cherokee County Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens wants to start a discussion on how all cities can pitch in to help economic development.

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development is understaffed and needs more money to help with its efforts to make the county more desirable to prospective developers.

To succeed in that endeavor, Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens would like for the seven cities whose boundaries are either fully or partially in the county to consider contributing towards CoED's budget.

Ahrens emailed the mayors of Woodstock, Canton, Holly Springs, Ball Ground, Waleska, Nelson and Mountain Park and asked them to each consider contributing money towards CoED's budget.

Nelson straddles the Cherokee and Pickens County border north of Ball Ground and while the bulk of Mountain Park sits in northern Fulton County, a very small portion sits inside Cherokee.

The chairman, along with CoED President Misti Martin, made a presentation to the Woodstock City Council last week and also has talked with city of Canton leaders on the possibility.

Ahrens said CoED works to enhance economic development for Cherokee County and does not recognize municipal boundaries in its efforts.

"There is absolutely no question that we are doing everything in our power, have the state recognition of many qualitative factors  - personnel and desirable factors in our community,  and yet we still need to raise the bar even further," he said in an email.

CoED currently has a budget of $300,000 and Ahrens said he'd like to find another $100,000 to contribute to the office.

He requested that both Canton and Woodstock contribute between $20,000 and $25,000; for Holly Springs to mull giving $10,000 to $15,000; and for Waleska, Ball Ground, Nelson and Mountain Park to donate around $5,000. 

Along with Martin, CoED has two additional staff members, Project Manager Heath Tippens and Administrative Assistant Alyssa Baston.

Ahrens noted the Georgia Department of Economic Development has only one contact for economic development in the county and CoED currently fills that capacity. 

Ahrens will speak to the Holly Springs City Council tonight on the request and the Canton City Council will review the request during its meeting tonight. Ball Ground Mayor Rick Roberts said the city is on board with the request.

"Given one of our established priorities for the next five years is to growth business and industry, I think it will be a good investment for Ball Ground," he added.

City Manager Eric Wilmarth said the city plans to contribute the $5,000 annually as requested by the county chairman.

Woodstock City Manager Jeff Moon said the council said the issue most likely won't be discussed again until the city begin its fiscal year 2014 budget process.

Nelson City Manager Brandy Edwards noted she didn't think the council would be in favor of the request.

However, the city of Mountain Park has passed on the request.

"As the city of Mountain Park is such a small portion of Cherokee County and we are such a small community, we do not anticipate contributing to this endeavor," Mayor Jim Still said, referring to the six houses in the city that sit inside Cherokee. "We support the effort and think it will be beneficial to the county, but have no plans to discuss this at any future meetings."

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