Toward a bright future in Cobb, South Metro

Moderated by Rick Badie

What’s good for Cobb County? Well, for starters, the Atlanta Braves move , according to the newly formed “Good for Cobb.” Its co-founders say the group was formed to identify and publicly express support for initiatives deemed good for the county. Elsewhere, a former Fulton County commissioner writes about “smart growth” for the South Metro area, while the other guest writer advocates for a Bosnian-American Day in Georgia.

Cobb’s bright future

By John Loud and Justin O’Dell

Pro-active leadership in the business community makes or breaks economic development, education, transportation and quality of life. In Cobb County, trailblazers from Earnest Barrett to business leaders today have built a vibrant and enviable county in which many of us are lucky to live, work and play.

Standing on our forebears’ collective shoulders, we endeavor to continue this tradition of catalytic leadership. We have assembled a diverse group of leaders to form a grassroots organization called, simply, “Good for Cobb.”

Made up of engaged and geographically diverse leaders from education, business, public safety and the non-profit sectors, our mission is simple: Support a wide range of initiatives that ensure a bright future for Cobb as well as the region.

Good for Cobb will advocate for and support positive initiatives in economic development, public safety, education, recreation and transportation.

The organization’s first official vote was to support initiatives involved in the move of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County in 2017. The move is an unparalleled economic development initiative that will pump billions into the community. Thousands of new jobs are being created from projects that result from this one transformative event.

The second official action will be to support endeavors beneficial for Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Cobb’s prized military asset and vital economic development and jobs partner.

Dobbins is the largest multi-service reserve-training base in the world. It supports more than 10,000 guardsmen and reservists from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines and is home to the 94th Airlift Wing, the host unit. Tenant organizations including the 22nd Air Force headquarters, Naval Air Station Atlanta and the Georgia Army National Guard. Nearly 50 aircraft are assigned to different flying units at Dobbins, and the base boasts of more than 7,000 monthly takeoffs and landings.

Too often, projects, developments and initiatives in Cobb fail to receive the grassroots support and input from the community they truly deserve. It’s been too easy for naysayers and those opposed to progress to garner media attention, while the 95 percent that want to keep Cobb moving forward remain silent.

While the Braves and Dobbins will be the group’s first focus, we will engage in future issues to include transportation, education and redevelopment and infrastructure measures we believe will benefit Cobb — just as the Braves move proved that a single investment can create immeasurable economic impact for the county and change the landscape for generations. We must be prepared for and open to future opportunities.We want to allow Cobb businesses to show they too support the Braves move, Dobbins and other positive endeavors. Whether through posting storefront stickers or posting on social media, we want to create positive, pro-active and united voices that proudly show the region, the state and the Southeast that Cobb is a county constantly moving forward and planning for the future.

The Cobb Travel and Tourism Bureau refers to Cobb as “Atlanta’s sweet spot.” It is home to five cities and is bordered by five counties. The positive impact of what happens in our boundaries does not stop at the county lines. All in the region benefit from the trickle-down economics of the Braves investment, Dobbins ARB and the growth of businesses and institutions of higher education that call Cobb home.

The more we publicly display our business DNA in Cobb County, the sweeter the future will be.

John Loud and Justin O’Dell are co-chairmen of Good for Cobb.

A robust South Metro

By Michael Hightower

Atlanta is the 10th fastest-growing city in the nation with a projected economic growth rate of 3.5 percent between 2011 and 2016. Yet for decades, there has been a noticeable divide between Atlanta’s southern and northern regions.

The southside has traditionally been overlooked compared to the northside in job growth, population, housing and economic development. However, South Metro has emerged as a key catalyst and contributor to metropolitan Atlanta’s growth.

There are signs of economic growth throughout South Metro: new upscale single-family developments, a growing film industry, rapid expansion in the health-care sector, and a strong college presence. In addition, new commercial mixed-use and retail development, along with continued growth in the industrial marketplace, are signs of a robust region.

For 13 years, the South Metro Development Outlook Conference has brought together industry experts, corporate executives, government leaders and elected officials interested in fostering economic growth in the region. The conference covers Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Henry, south Fulton and Spalding counties and the southern portion of Atlanta.

Its 2015 meeting was recently held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. Economic development was the major focus.

Among the 30 speakers was nationally acclaimed economist Roger Tutterow. He spoke of the emergence of distribution and logistics centers that could help position the southern region as an industry leader. Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, presented valuable information about South Metro successes, and considers Fort Gillem’s Logistics Center and Kroger — which is constructing a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution facility on the property — as two forces leading the charge for development in the southern crescent.Several economic development initiatives were highlighted, including Porsche’s $100 million facility on 130 acres adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; Chime Solutions’ call center at Southlake Mall, which will generate more than 1,120 jobs; and Toppan Printing Ltd., a Japan-based company that invested $100 million in a Spalding facility.

Existing economic development initiatives aiding growth of South Metro include Camp Creek Market Place, a successful tax allocation district that opened in 2003. Additionally, in the past two years, the Fulton Industrial Boulevard Improvement District and Airport West Community Improvement District joined the South Fulton CID, established in the late 90s.

The film industry is having a major economic impact. South Metro Development Outlook featured a session on the industry, which included Coweta’s Senoia Enterprises, home of the television show, “The Walking Dead”; Fayetteville’s Pinewood Studios, and the proposed Fort McPherson/Tyler Perry movie studio complex. Additionally, Union City is slated to build 12 film stages at the former Shannon Mall. Clayton State University and Fayette County schools are addressing the education component that will provide skilled workers for the film industry.

Interest in the Clayton MARTA partnership was high. Providing transit service in Clayton is historic for MARTA, as it is the system’s first major addition in 40 years. Limited service will begin in late March with 35 buses initially; the partnership is expected to generate 2,500 new jobs.

The conference culminated with Hartsfield-Jackson’s aviation manager, Miguel Southwell, presenting insights on projects planned for the airport and the surrounding area. South Metro’s biggest tenant, the world’s busiest airport, is truly an economic engine for the region.

Michael Hightower, an Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance board member, is founder and managing partner of The Collaborative Firm.

Special day would recognize Bosnian immigrants

By Amra Ikic

The Bosnian-American community of metro Atlanta hopes to establish a “Bosnian-American Day” in Georgia on March 1. Next week, the community will host an assembly at the state Capitol to introduce the Legislature to Bosnian culture, cuisine, and dance.

Around 10,000 Bosnians live in metro Atlanta, mainly in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

Meet Zejna Hadzic. She, with her husband and his family, were the first Bosnians to settle in Georgia after the Bosnian war. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1993.

“My husband lost two brothers in the war,” Hadzic said. “He comes from a large, close family, so it was very difficult for us to cope.”

Hadzic and her husband decided the United States would be the best option for them to pursue. Shortly after arriving here, Hadzic family members were reunited.

Describing life in Georgia, Hadzic said they had a difficult start.“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “We didn’t speak a word of English at the time, which made it harder to transition to American life.”

After meeting with a translator, Hadzic and her husband started taking English courses. Slowly, things got easier as they mastered the language and started working.

“In the U.S., you can have everything if you work for it,” Hadzic said. “We’re grateful for the opportunities America has given us, because I don’t think we would have had the same ones if we stayed in Bosnia.”

Hadzic’s story is one the Bosnian community understands well.

Darel Duliman, a coordinator for the assembly, moved to Lawrenceville with his family in 2000. “We’re proud of our heritage, so naturally we want to share it,” he said.

Although a large Bosnian population exists in the U.S., Georgia would be the first state to have a Bosnian-American Day if the resolution passes in the Senate and House. State Rep. Valerie Clark, R-Lawrenceville, is writing the legislation.

On March 1, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina received their independence from the former Yugoslavia. To the Bosnian-American community in Georgia, March 1 represents two cultures becoming one.

Duliman has started a fundraiser where anyone can contribute financially for Bosnian-American Day: www.gofundme.com/bosnianamerican. There’s also a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bosnian.american.day.

Amra Ikic, a Georgia State University graduate, lives in Lawrenceville.


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