Mayor Mark Mathews, giving his State of the City address Tuesday to about 225 Kennesaw Business Association members and guests at the group’s January luncheon at Embassy Suites, said the 320-acre Cobb County Airport will have a new feature.
“The Cobb Board of Commissioners recently approved a new tower to be constructed, so that will be coming up in the next year,” Mathews said. “I’ve been asked to serve on the committee to help with the concept and design, and try and create a facility that speaks for our community. I heard what they would like to see is the ‘new Big Chicken’ for Cobb County.”
While the city had milestones in 2012 such as celebrating the 125th anniversary of the city’s charter and the 150th year since the Great Locomotive Chase, it also ushered in a new era of air travel for the one-runway airstrip on McCollum Parkway.
“Our city is adjacent to McCollum Field, which in 2012 added substantial new hangar space to accommodate the corporate needs of clients like NCR and many others,” Mathews said. “Between the county and the (fixed-based operators), they invested this past year over $75 million in improvements. That’s huge.”
Corporations large and small were a key part of the address, titled “Get, Be and Stay Involved,” in which Mathews outlined five goals for 2013: business development, promotion, job creation, mobility and quality of life.
“In a never-ending circle, business success generates revenue for the city, which is then invested in projects and programs that aid more growth and development,” he said. “One way to be involved is to encourage businesses to locate here by offering flexible, targeted economic incentive programs.”
The economic development department ramped up in 2012, Mathews said, and the city held 30 ribbon-cuttings in 2012, a 50 percent increase over 2011, among other activities.
“This past summer, Fabric.com absorbed 210,000 square feet of building space in the Jiles Commerce Center,” he said. “Over 400,000 square feet of vacant industrial space was leased or purchased in 2012, and we’re already working on five more projects for 2013.”
Other companies that recently relocated in Kennesaw included Lance Oil Co., All Roof Solutions, Compass Display, and Parallex Digital, Mathews said.
Other new or expanded businesses were U-Haul, Cottontail Quilts, Speedy Wiz Transport, Traders 22, the Georgia Trade School and six new restaurants such as Front Porch Southern Dining.
“Because they represent a diversity of sectors, it helps limit our exposure if one sector has a downturn,” he said.
Other 2012 economic development gains included the sold-out opening of American Campus Communities’ $50 million, 950-capacity student housing development for Kennesaw State University students, with another 850-student project to start construction in April.
“CVS has built a new 10,000-square-foot facility at Cobb Parkway and Jiles Road that just opened this week,” Mathews said. “Metro Bank is constructing a $2 million office at Cobb Parkway and Kennesaw Due West. Burnt Hickory Brewery plans to expand into adjoining space at their Moon Station Road facility and upgrade their equipment this year.”
Investment in residential housing showed new signs of life in 2012, he said, with 24 new single-family homes completed and another 12 under construction.
“Developments that stalled during the economic downturn have resumed building,” Mathews said about Mountain Oaks, White Oak, Baker Station, Whispering Lake and the Enclave at Pinetree subdivisions. “Most of the existing lot inventory will be built out by the end of the year.”
Other accomplishments were SPLOST projects on streets and in parks to increase mobility and quality of life, he said, and Thursday’s planned groundbreaking of a new skate park at Swift-Cantrell Park was highlighted.
“The facility will be the first ever permanent skate park to feature elements modeled on a competitive street skate park design,” Mathews said. “It’s funded by the 2011 SPLOST, augmented by corporate or private donations or grants, not the city’s general fund.”
Mathews recognized his hosts as key players in the city’s success, specializing in business development and promotion.
“The KBA is recognized as one of the most productive organizations of its kind in the area,” he said.
In addition, other supportive groups have pitched in.
The Kennesaw Development Authority is constantly looking for ways to improve our city’s business climate,” Mathews said. “The Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority continues to raise the profile of our downtown.”
Matthew Riedemann, a KDA member and managing director of Ashford Capital, returned the compliment.
“The mayor gave a detailed, thorough and exciting plan for this year and the years ahead,” he said after the speech. “It was great to see the recap of the past year.”
Riedemann said he was inspired to comply with the speech’s theme.
“I’m excited to be involved with the city. Mark does a great job of setting the tone for the city,” he said. “I entirely appreciate it.”