The Cherokee County Airport Authority hosted a tour for Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, who will be the county’s congressman beginning in January 2013.
Gingrey lives in Marietta, in Congressional District 11, which includes Polk and Paulding and parts of Gordon, Bartow, Carroll, Cobb and Douglas counties.
Because of redistricting, Gingrey’s district will include Cherokee, Bartow and parts of Cobb County, from the northwest corner, extending through central Cobb and parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs.
Members of the authority showed Gingrey and his staff notable locations in Canton, including The Bluffs at Technology Park, the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir, the Cherokee County Regional Airport, the Cherokee County Administration Building and Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center and Canton Marketplace.
Gingrey also met with County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens and Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, who both went over the county’s selling points and economic development strategy.
Ahrens called the county’s selling points “points of differentiation,” and noted how Cherokee is actively enhancing its parks and recreation amenities, has a high performing school system and has five “diverse” cities.
Gingrey said he was impressed with what Cherokee has to offer, adding the tour was “very beneficial” in preparing to serve a new set of constituents.
“I’m grateful to have Cherokee County in my congressional district,” he said. “I’m thrilled about the opportunity.”
Don Stevens, chairman of the airport authority, provided Gingrey with a brief history of the airport and the county’s efforts to fund and expand the airport.
The $34 million airport expansion, which includes $15 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds committed by the county government, included extending the runway and parallel taxiway to 5,002 feet.
The extension now allows the airport to accommodate larger aircraft and corporate jets.
It also increased hangar space to accommodate up to 300 aircraft, up from about 100 that are currently based there.
The expansion also included a new terminal, which opened for business in April 2010. The $1.4 million building includes a lobby, conference room and a pilot’s lounge.
S&S Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operator, is operating the building for the airport authority and has a representative on site.
Stevens reminded Gingrey that the expansion of the airport happened because the county and Congressman Tom Price, who currently represents Cherokee, “saw this as an economic engine for Cherokee County.”
Gingrey also heard an overview of Cherokee’s higher educational opportunities, as Jennifer Nelson, director of external affairs at Chattahoochee Technical College, informed the congressman about the Canton campus that opened last year.
Marsha White, director of marketing and external communications at Reinhardt University, also went over with Gingrey and his staff the university’s addition of graduate-level academic programs and its plans to start a football team during the 2013-14 academic year.
Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood touted his city’s growth and its efforts to maintain the level of services its residents expect.
Hobgood also said the city has seen success with the Canton Marketplace development off I-575 at exit 19, but also is cognizant of the importance of sustaining its downtown core.
“We are working really hard to maintain the structure of downtown,” he said, adding many cities struggle with that when they experience development around its major arteries.
Hobgood also made mention of plans to replace its current, 84-bed Northside Hospital-Cherokee facility on Hospital Road with a new facility on a 100-acre tract behind Canton Marketplace.
Along with the hospital, the campus will eventually include a women’s center, a multi-specialty medical office building and cancer center, a parking deck with 600 parking spots and a 300-spot surface parking lot.
The plans have been challenged by WellStar Health System, an action Gingery characterized as “perfunctory.”
“It’s just a common sense thing,” he said of the planned hospital facility.
The congressman, who represented south Cherokee County during the late 1990s as a state representative, said Cherokee has witnessed considerable changes since he’s represented the area and said he’s been “tremendously impressed” with what he saw during the tour.
The information he gathered, he added, will be beneficial in helping him transition, which he said will be “seamless.”
“They are not going to miss a beat,” he said of Price’s constituents in Cherokee. “I hope the people of Cherokee won’t worry too much about the change. We’ll do a good job for them.”