The county is working on a website that will allow people interested in doing business in Cobb to search for areas that meet their needs. Dana Johnson, the county’s planning division manager, said they can include factors such as how many acres they want and how close to an Interstate highway they want to be located.
The website is needed because companies that find sites for businesses are doing more of their own research, Johnson said.
“Before, site selectors would call the county,” he said. “They’ve kind of changed the process and are more interested in speeding up the process.”
The website is part of the county’s update of a plan for site redevelopment that was first conducted in 2000. Johnson said the county had to re-evaluate its unused sites because of the struggling economy.
“We felt it was a good time to prepare ourselves and update the analysis,” he said.
As part of a redevelopment inventory, the county has identified 28 sites, narrowed down from a list of 47, that are located in county incentive areas, where businesses can get tax credits or other perks for moving. Of those, 13 are in the Canton Road corridor in east Cobb, with nine more along Veterans Memorial Highway in the southern part of the county. Both those streets are in areas the county considers commercial and industrial rehabilitation areas.
“Most of them are vacant or underutilized commercial sites,” Johnson said. “It kind of runs the full spectrum. Some of the sites are in deteriorating condition, some were half developed, but funding collapsed, to sites that have been there a long time.”
The county is doing its part to lure businesses back to Canton Road, said Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb. It recently completed road, median and sidewalk improvements and is putting road landscaping contracts out to bid.
She also hopes a new grocery-only Walmart Neighborhood Market, planned to open next year at the intersection of Canton and Blackwell roads, will help lure more businesses.
“I think we’re revitalizing that entire area, and it’s really looking good now,” she said. “I really think that’s going to attract some new business.”
Birrell said she plans to visit the Canton Road redevelopment sites with county staff next week. While the Canton Road area isn’t eligible for enterprise zone tax incentives, she said businesses that move there can get breaks on some of their fees as a result of the sliding scale the Board of Commissioners passed last month. The changes to the county’s economic development ordinance make it easier for companies that lease space or don’t have as large of an economic impact to get incentives from the county if they meet standards for creating jobs.
While some of the redevelopment sites are old gas stations, which will be tough to find replacements for, Birrell said others can be successful businesses.
“We’ve already got businesses coming out there, but we really want to target those vacant store fronts,” she said.