By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read November 2020 — Recovery is the first order of business for Cobb County in 2021. Leveraging its strong pre-pandemic growth in terms of industry landscape, diversification and job creation, along with lessons learned in 2020, the county is positioned to be among the top business destinations in the Atlanta metro area. Leading the recovery efforts is the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, which has served as a key economic development leader in the county and is helping shape the future of the region.
2019 was a year of growth and progress for Cobb County. Unemployment rates hovered around 3% for the year and maintained strength heading into 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Cobb Chamber helped attract an estimated 2,500 high-quality jobs from around 20 companies across a number of industries. With new programs slated to support economic development, such as an international council, transportation and mobility committee and workforce target industry councils, the Cobb Chamber was ready to carry this success into the new decade. Then COVID hit. The county and chamber immediately pivoted and completely focused on economic recovery.
“Our chamber has been focused on recovery from day one of the pandemic where we formed an Economic Recovery Task Force and brought together many of the industries that were at the worst end of the pandemic: small businesses, tourism, nonprofits, to name a few,” President and CEO Sharon Mason told Focus: Atlanta. “We have focused on both short-term and long-term solutions, fed by surveying and hard facts to produce an accurate picture of the impact on each industry and geographic area and the financial assistance needed.”
In May, as residents and business owners endured the shelter in place measures, furloughs and the fast transition into the remote working environment, Cobb County and the chamber via the CARES Act championed efforts to create one of the largest small-business grants programs in the region.
“Through the CARES Act, the Cobb County government made $50 million available in small-business grants, and partnered with our SelectCobb economic development arm to administer the small business grants. Thousands of Cobb based businesses received the boost they needed to overcome this crisis thanks to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners,” Mason said.
While the small business grants were a means to keep businesses afloat during this challenging economic cycle, the chamber bolstered its workforce development efforts in July by launching CobbHires.com, an online job portal, as the state began phasing its reopening process. “At the Cobb Chamber, we know that our county is a magnet for talent. In order to expand our workforce offerings and create value for our business members and community, we are proud to announce the launch of CobbHires.com, the Cobb Chamber’s job board and internship board,” said Dana Johnson, COO of the Cobb Chamber. This move mirrors the county’s decline in unemployment figures. Cobb County’s unemployment peaked at 11.4% in April and has declined month after month to sit at 5.6% as of September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The industries likely to create jobs and opportunities in Cobb County come 2021 are technology, biotech and healthcare, construction and trade, advanced manufacturing, and logistics and distribution. “Through our Cobb Workforce Partnership that we started five years ago in partnership with education and businesses, we have focused on these areas through our target industry councils to provide resources and support to continue growing each area,” Mason said.
As it relates to talent, Cobb County students showed their resilience and readiness to thrive in the digital world. The 2020 graduation rate for the Cobb County School District is 88.6%, which is up from 86.9% in 2019, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Cobb County Board of Education. This is the highest rate since the current method of measuring the graduation rate began in 2012. “No matter the challenges this year, our teachers and principals have helped a record number of Cobb students reach the graduation stage. The highest graduation rate in District history is evidence of our One Team’s commitment to student success, even during a school year when our students, staff, and communities were faced with every possible obstacle,” said Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale in a press release.
The county’s business fundamentals coupled with the Cobb Chamber’s workforce development efforts and business support point to a recovery period characterized not by “if” but rather “when.” “We want to pinpoint industry recovery in every area and help different organizations to innovate and be able to pivot. We have seen many entrepreneurs pivot completely and focus on a different type of product or model to become more resilient against the pandemic. We will continue to foster these efforts through the chamber and help all our industries and businesses recover,” Mason said.
A light at the end of the tunnel for the county and chamber is the significant increase of companies considering moving to Cobb or Georgia in general. “The pandemic has caused many business leaders and site selectors to revisit how and where to best do business. We have so many great things going for us as a community and a state, with our low taxes and cost of living, our position as the No. 1 place to do business, proximity to the airport, a great and diverse range of companies located here, strong workforce pipeline, excellent schools and healthcare, great quality of life, to name a few. Building on that, we are going to see more success and an increasing number of companies setting up shop in Cobb and the state of Georgia and these companies have a positive ripple impact on the economy in many ways,” Mason added.
To learn more about our interviewees, visit:https://www.cobbchamber.org