It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the Chairman of the third largest County in Georgia for the past six years. My commitment as an elected leader has always been to:
* Provide best in class services at the lowest cost to taxpayers;
* Put public safety first;
* Grow jobs and the economy.
As I think about leaving office at the end of this month, I can’t help but reflect on the past six years and how much has changed since when I was sworn in as the Cobb County Commission chairman in 2010. It was one of the worst economic times in many of our lives. The commissioners, because of the recession, faced some of the toughest decisions in Cobb County history.
Even after cutting as many positions as possible, we were then forced to cut services, and raise the property tax millage rate to preserve our coveted Triple AAA credit rating and balance our budget. Make no mistake about it, a Triple AAA Bond rating is something to be proud of and an achievement that makes Cobb County the envy of local governments in the state and across the country.
Solid fiscal health provides a platform for robust economic growth. Infrastructure investment is equally important. I am so proud that we have passed two SPLOSTS during the past six years. Together, these represent almost one billion dollars in infrastructure investment.
Quality of life is also key to prosperity, and public safety is paramount. During my tenure, the number of sworn officer positions has grown by 100. The public safety budget has increased by 16 million dollars, and we have implemented multiple policies to retain and attract the best and the brightest.
The next step in creating and maintaining economic success is developing a plan. I am excited to have been part of building Cobb Competitive Edge– a collaborative strategy to proactively recruit and retain companies, and attract private investment in our county.
In the five short years since it has launched, more than 20,000 jobs have been created or retained. There has also been more than $2 billion of private investment. All three Fortune 500 companies have each announced major expansions. Five new Class A Office Towers are under construction, and two more announced. The sought-after young professional workforce is moving in, not out.
Economic development is as much about new investment as it is about reinvestment. In 2011, we reignited the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority. Subsequently, we created the Six Flags Special District and approved the issuance of $10 million dollars in bonds to facilitate private investment and spur economic growth.
Growth, investment, and job creation, have been THE focal points of my leadership. And, the successes in these areas served as the foundation for one of the securing one the largest economic development project in Cobb’s history: the relocation of the Atlanta Braves.
Let me be very clear; this project was never just about a ballpark. It was always about an economic development plan, and our plan is working.
Before the first pitch has been thrown, the financial impact is lighting up the scoreboard.
Four years ago, the Cumberland Galleria had the second lowest absorption rate in the region. Today, it has the second highest.
Four years ago, the office vacancy rate was 16 percent. Today, it is 12 percent.
Four years ago, there were zero square feet of Class A office under construction. Today, there is 1.2 million square feet of Class A office under construction.
In 2017, the Braves development is expected to generate an additional $5.6 million in revenue for the county. By 2020, almost $10 million annually. Over the next ten years, it will inject more than $120 million in new revenues to Cobb schools. The development and investment occurring around it is to the tune of $350 million, last year alone.
We are changing our skyline, and that is changing our bottom line. As I prepare to leave office the unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, five percent lower than 2011. Cobb is home to 354,000 jobs, almost 40,000 more jobs than 2011. The tax digest has grown by more than 2 billion dollars. The millage rate has been reduced by more than one mill and is the lowest it has been since the year 2000.
If Cobb continues to grow the economy at this pace, estimates show that by 2020 the tax digest will increase by an additional $3 billion dollars.
I never ran for office to get re-elected. I ran with the goal of making decisions and taking actions that would ensure that I would leave Cobb better than I found it. I hope that I have fulfilled this commitment and that Cobb County continues to move forward a bold and aspiring vision for the future along with the courage to see it through.