Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens has made requests in varying dollar amounts to Canton, Woodstock, Holly Springs, Waleska and Ball Ground to increase the budget of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. So far, only Ball Ground has agreed, Ahrens said Tuesday.
Woodstock and Canton have been asked for a three-year commitment of $20,000 to $25,000 each, and the others asked for lesser amounts for the same term.
Ahrens said the hope is to increase COED’s budget by $100,000 annually. Should the cities agree, Cherokee County will contribute whatever funding is lacked to reach $100,000, Ahrens said.
Misti Martin, president of COED said Tuesday that the money would go to hiring a new staff member in her office and additional funds for marketing.
Martin’s staff is made up of three employees: herself, an administrative assistant and a project manager. She said she hopes the new position would be an additional project manager to help with the workload in the office, which works to bring in new additions to the county’s business landscape.
From 2009 to 2012, Martin said, activity in her office increased more than 500 percent, but their budget has stayed the same.
Ahrens said that the COED of Cherokee County’s budget is about $300,000, one of the lowest of any county its size in Georgia.
Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said Wednesday that he thinks COED’s work warrants more funding, as it could bring new business to the city of Canton.
“That office does not care whether it (a new business) goes in the city or county,” he said. “I think an additional 20-25k is well worth it.”
But, as the Canton City Council discussed in a meeting last week, Hobgood said a final decision will not be made until the city’s next budget is drawn up in a few months.
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques said his city is also waiting for budget time to make a decision. But he does have some concerns that, should they agree to contribute, Woodstock citizens would be paying taxes for economic development twice, once in their county taxes and once in their city taxes.
“I know some council members feel the same way,” he said.
Ahrens said, though, that the money doesn’t have to come from the cities’ general fund and could be pulled from grants they’ve received from the state.
Wherever the money comes from, Ahrens said, additional funding for COED could bring big things to Cherokee County and its cities, though no one can be sure of just what it could bring until the money is actually spent.
“You’ll never know,” he said. “It’s all a finger in the wind. But the timing is right. Why not throw something more at it (COED’s budget) for three years?”