Cherokee, Cobb talk incubator partnership
by Joshua Sharpe
jsharpe@mdjonline.com
August 14, 2013 12:03 AM | 1302 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Cherokee and Cobb counties are considering a partnership with a group of private investors hoping to open a business incubator facility in Kennesaw.

During a meeting of the Joint Development Authority of Cherokee County and Cobb County on Tuesday, economic development officials from both counties discussed joining in with the investors by helping market the facility, which would aid start-up businesses in the region by offering office space and shared services at reduced rates.

Talk of the regional center began when the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce was approached recently by the investors with their plans to open the center somewhere in the Wade Green Road area of Kennesaw, said Brooks Mathis, the Chamber’s economic development vice president.

A location near the Cherokee-Cobb County line would make the venture a “good joint collaboration” for both counties, Mathis said.

Mathis said businesses moving into the facility would share in-house staff members, including an attorney, an accountant and business adviser, and would pay a reduced rent before getting on their feet and moving out of the center. Once the budding businesses move out of the center and into the market, Brooks said the center would likely receive a certain amount of their profits for the next three years.

Although both counties could benefit from the development, Mathis said “Neither community has to come out of pocket,” for the facility.

Instead, the group of investors, which is headed by a retired corporate executive from Atlanta, would fund and own the center but ask each county to help bring in the new businesses, Mathis said. The investors will also be reaching out to Kennesaw State University, Southern Polytechnic State University and Chattahoochee Technical University to staff the center, Mathis said.

Mathis said KSU is already on board.

“KSU’s already contributed a full-time person to manage the center as well as an administrative person,” he said.

Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, said Cherokee County may too be on board, but only if the businesses would be encouraged to stay in the area once they “graduate” and move out of the facility.

“I think that leadership here would be open-minded to it, and we would contribute in whatever way we could to make it a regional incubator if we knew there could be some benefit on the back end from it,” Martin said. “If there’s not, I don’t see any reason why they’d do it.”

Mathis said the Cobb Chamber has discussed the possibility of trying to keep the new businesses in the region after they move out. But it would be up to each county to offer incentives to the start-ups to stay in the area, Mathis said.

So far, Mathis said plans for the center aren’t fully developed. But several employees with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce will be flying out to Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday to tour two similar privately owned incubator centers in hopes of getting ideas for the Kennesaw facility.

The Joint Development Authority of Cherokee County and Cobb County is made up of five total members, with three from Cherokee and two from Cobb. Cobb County members of the board Demming Bass and Bob Ash were not in attendance for the meeting Tuesday.

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