James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 28



Economic Development Powerhouse
28
JAMES
MARCH/APRIL 2020
One of the most important functions of a successful county is economic development. Like all key
leadership positions, it’s critical to employ an experienced economic development leader who brings a
track record for successfully recruiting businesses
and manufacturers locally, nationally and globally.
Misti Martin is a Georgia native who has worked
in the Chamber and economic development field for
over 25 years. She has served as the president of the
Cherokee Office of Economic Development since
2004. A graduate of the Terry College of Business at
the University of Georgia, she served as Chairperson
of the Georgia Economic Developers Association,
earned her Certified Economic Developer status from
the International Economic Development Council in
2000 and was recognized as one of the “Top 50
Economic Developers in North America” in 2016.
“We focus on economic development to create
economic opportunity for all of our citizens, by creating jobs, attracting business investment and diversifying the community’s revenue base,” she adds.
“Our slogan is Cherokee By Choice.”
“It’s no mistake that when businesses describe
why they are in Cherokee By Choice you hear words
like: The leadership connected with us; they listened; it clicked; it’s a partnership; everyone is
involved— city, county, economic development, fellow businesses, and we’re all willing to figure out
the challenges together; they’re vested in our project; taking risks and making the right decisions and,
owing their success to this community.”
“Cherokee County is one of five Georgia
Counties identified by the Technology Association
of Georgia (TAG) as having an Innovation Economy
that tops the national average,” she underscores.
“Our economic development efforts also include film
recruitment and industry retention and expansion.”
Cherokee’s Office of Economic Development also
works to meet product and infrastructure needs
through multi-use real estate recruitment that is
focused on mixed use and Class A office space,
which meets the needs of out-commuting residents.
Its Cherokee 75 Corporate Park embraces sustainability and drives diverse economic development
within the community. And its $65 million Mill on
Etowah brings mixed-use redevelopment to downtown Canton. Despite Martin’s— and her team’s
effectiveness— she attributes much of Cherokee’s
success to community leaders.
“When you hear our business leaders describe
why they are in Cherokee By Choice, you hear
words like: The leadership connected with us; they listened; it clicked; it’s a partnership; everyone is
involved— city, county, economic development, fellow
businesses, and we’re all willing to figure out the challenges together; they’re vested in our project; taking
risks and making the right decisions. … These results
only happen with true partnerships and with phenomenal leadership,” she added, with a nod to County
Commission Chairman Harry Johnston.
Leadership & Other Strengths
Johnston, who served as a district commissioner
for 14 years, also served on the county’s Planning
Commission from 1996 to 2000. He was first elected
chairman in 1988 and has lived in the county most of
his life. A certified public accountant who holds
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance and
accounting, he recently retired from a 42-year career
at Southern Company where he managed various
accounting functions.
Johnston’s opening statement at the state of the
county address says it all: “The State of Cherokee
County is Awesome!”
He lists Cherokee’s many attributes, including
what he calls Cherokee’s “natural gifts,” which include
a location “Where Metro Meets the Mountains” and
geography that features rolling hills, mountains, and
lakes. It’s a climate that offers four seasons, including
relatively mild winters. Water, he adds, is another natural gift because of Cherokee’s proximity to the Etowah
River and Lake Allatoona.
He points out Cherokee’s “strengths we’ve built”
include sound fiscal management, excellent schools,
public safety, plentiful water, a strong economy, exceptional healthcare, road improvements, a regional airport, beautiful parks, diversity of lifestyles, thriving
cities, cooperative leadership and a commitment to
managed growth.
The county’s financial strengths include the lowest
tax burden and the lowest debt burden per capita in the
region; an AA+ Investment Rating, cash reserves that
total 25 percent of operating expenses, accelerated payment of long-term debt that saves $7.8 million, and the
second lowest healthcare costs in the Atlanta region.
In the case of Cherokee County, Wolfe’s statement— “You can’t go home again”— does not ring
true. Cherokee County, with its state-of-the-art-hospital,
quality schools, quality of life, and increased employment and recreational opportunities, is a fine place to
call home, raise and nurture a young family— or retire
just close enough, but not too close— to a big city.
Tal Wright is a staff writer for James and InsiderAdvantage Georgia.
MARCH/APRIL 2020
29

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