Each year, Cobb Chamber officials take one trip to a metropolitan area that utilizes strategies similar to those found in its EDGE program. Last year, it visited Fairfax County, Va.
"The goal is to coordinate and implement ideas that best fit our environment in Cobb," said Slade Gulledge, the Chamber's director of government relations. "These strategic visits give us a perspective on what other communities are doing right, what lessons we can learn and what strategies we can implement here in Cobb to achieve our economic and community development goals."
The Chamber's entourage to Cleveland included action teams consisting of Cobb community leaders and investors with specialties in transit, small business and entrepreneurship and building community identities. The teams met with various Cleveland civic and business leaders to discuss topics including business incubators, small business programs, transportation and infrastructure initiatives and community marketing programs, among others.
One of the places on the itinerary was Cleveland's Euclid Avenue corridor, which was transformed by a strategic $200 million investment in the Regional Transit Authority's HealthLine, a state-of-the art bus-rapid transit system that offers rail-like convenience with the flexibility of a bus. The hybrid technology is the same one that was recommended for Cobb County following its Alternatives Analysis, a report conducted on behalf of the Connect Cobb study. The Alternative Analysis was initiated to investigate transit options and their impact on mobility, livability and connectivity in the northwest corridor.
"After doing research beyond the transportation realm, we found the Euclid Avenue corridor to be a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem with great business incubator and accelerator spaces," Gulledge said. "The community is defined by wonderful cultural amenities, economic development and redevelopment, and unique neighborhoods."
Another strategic stop was Ohio City, an artisan community that continues to experience rapid growth thanks to the century-old West Side Market, the Great Lakes Brewery headquarters, and scores of local restaurants and shops. Chamber officials also received an inside look at PlayhouseSquare, the country's largest theater district outside of New York City. Located on Euclid Avenue, the district has nine operating theaters, as well as event, meeting, studio and classroom spaces.
"Learning from leaders who have taken on projects gives our team creative ideas to assist in implementation, funding and timing," said Brooks Mathis, the Chamber's VP of economic development. "Specifically, Cleveland provided us knowledge related to business incubators and accelerators, as well as great transit and place making ideas. We learned the value of public and private partnerships, where together they created programs and projects that are some of the best in the country."