SMYRNA - Wanted: young, talented hipsters looking for a great place to live, work and play.
That's the idea behind an effort to recruit a younger generation to work in local industries and put down roots in Cobb County.
"Recruiting and retaining young talent is a key area of focus in Cobb's Competitive EDGE program," said Brooks Mathis, vice president of economic development at the Cobb Chamber and EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) executive director. "This is very important to the county because our existing industry has identified young talent as a continued need. We want to be proactive in providing young and trained talent to support our industries so they can grow in our community."
Launched earlier this year, the EDGE program is the county's first public-private partnership with a five-year economic development blueprint aimed at growing Cobb's business sector.
The initiative has seven benchmark goals, including the creation of 7,500 new jobs in the next five years, an increase of payroll earnings and income by $420 million and by $7,000 per capita and reducing the county’s unemployment rate to 5.5 percent.
“We want to create that ‘sense of place’ so young people can go to work and spend more time enjoying all that Cobb has to offer, without spending that time in a car commuting,” Mathis said.
According to David Knight, a partner with Marietta-based Walton Communities, today’s young professionals place a greater value on living where they work.
“We are working to create these highly desired neighborhoods in Cobb County and elsewhere to provide an attractive opportunity for younger generations to become invested and established,” Knight said.
Walton Communities develops, owns and manages apartment communities throughout metro Atlanta and Augusta, but with a twist on the traditional idea of “live-work-play” communities.
“I think this (concept) has evolved from people looking for stand-alone ‘live-work-play’ communities to more of a desire for an authentic neighborhood and community that offers the live-work-play conveniences, while being a cohesive part of a larger community,” Knight said. “For example, Walton Riverwood is nestled between several restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as biking and hiking trails.”
Walton Riverwood in Vinings joins Walton Grove and Walton Vinings in Smyrna, a community enjoying a renaissance of its downtown.
On a recent Friday night, Mayor Max Bacon surveyed the downtown scene. There were young families with children out for a bite to eat and young professionals unwinding with cocktails.
“It makes me feel good to stand out here and see all of these people, and they’re all under 35,” he said. “I am literally the oldest person out here.”
According to the latest census, the median age of a Cobb County resident is 35, while the median age of a Smyrna resident is 32.
What started with the construction of a library and community center in 1991 has blossomed into a vibrant downtown with residential and retail options as well. Smyrna is also home to employers including GLOCK Inc., IBM and Smyrna Hospital.
“The plan was to put the heart back in the city,” Bacon said. “We wanted to get folks to come here, and they have everything they need right here in Smyrna.”