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Opposition Grows Over Cobb EDGE Plan

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell is wary of county funding for the Cobb Chamber's economic development plan.

Should Cobb taxpayer money be used to help spur economic development in the county?

That's a bet commission chairman Tim Lee is hedging as he pledged last week to help fund a major initiative by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce

But commissioner JoAnn Birrell spoke out against the proposal, according to a report in The Marietta Daily Journal on Friday, saying the county should not commit to funding that it cannot control.

The Chamber initiative, called Competitive EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy), would come with a still-to-be-determined contribution from Cobb government. The plan was devised by Market Street, an Atlanta consulting firm.

Described as a "game-changing" project, EDGE (Facebook page) would be "Cobb County’s first holistic, transformational economic development strategy and implementation plan designed to aggressively generate high-wage job growth, strengthen our quality of life, education and infrastructure assets, and market Cobb County to the world."

Cobb has lost an estimated 35,000 jobs during the recession. The five-year EDGE project is designed to address job creation, entrepreneurship, cultivating community and "a sense of place" as well as marketing Cobb County and "projecting a positive image." 

The overall cost for EDGE would be an estimated $1.5 million a year, and a who's who steering committee includes Lee; Otis Brumby II, general manager of the MDJ; Cumberland Community Improvement District and Atlanta Regional Commission chairman Tad Leithead; several members of the Cobb legislative delegation; and corporate executives from Lockheed-Martin, WellStar Health System; Georgia Power; and Home Depot.

But with Cobb facing another severe budget process and after the commission  for the current fiscal year, there are plenty of reservations. 

South Cobb commissioner Woody Thompson, another steering committee member, expressed similar concerns as Birrell, according to the MDJ story, with North Cobb commissioner Helen Goreham in general support of the program. 

Commissioner Bob Ott, who also represents East Cobb and Smyrna-Vinings, was out of town for the announcement last week and hasn't commented. 

County funding for EDGE also has drawn sharp opposition from Lance Lamberton of the Cobb County Taxpayers Association, who told The Atlanta Journal-Constitiution: "If it's such a great thing, they need to raise private capital."

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