That was the message nearly 100 business leaders, elected officials and citizens heard during an economic development forum on Wednesday.
Bilijack Bell, a partner with real estate company Wilson, Hull & Neal, said the last four years have been "boring" in the real estate market. However, "today it feels different."
There's plenty of "positive energy" floating about Cherokee County, and the county is ready to take flight in its path towards recovery, Bell said.
"You have the right seeds (and) the right people in place," he added.
The forum, sponsored by theCherokee Office of Economic Development, was also designed to give those in the audience an update on the outlook of businesses who regularly participate in CoED's Existing Industries survey.
The survey, which was stared in 2007, is taken every two years, and is seen as the pulse of how businesses are fairing in Cherokee County. Twenty-three industries were interviewed between April and June.
The average time of companies participating in the survey have been operating in Cherokee is 20 years, said CoED President Misti Martin.
"It's a testament of our community as a place to do business," she added.
Some of the highlights include:
- 91 percent of companies said their primary products was either growing or maturing in its life cycle, compared to 86 percent in 2011;
- 50 percent of those companies have offices outside the United States;
- 87 percent reported increasing sales, compared to 75 percent in 2007, 62 percent in 2009 and 67 percent in 2011;
- 87 percent said they'd plan to introduce new products, compared to 85 percent in 2007, 62 percent in 2009 and 76 percent in 2011;
- 83 percent of companies surveyed have their research and development operations based in Cherokee;
- 70 percent reported an increase in investing in employee training, compared to 38 percent in 2011;
- Over 78 percent said they plan to expand within 3 years;
However, they did not shy away from pointing out some of the struggles Cherokee County continues to face, such as scarce inventory for commercial/industrial space, no adequate transportation infrastructure to allow residents to travel efficiently from the west end to the east side of the county and a lack of availability of high speed data transmissions at the county's older industrial parks.
Martin did note the county continues to see an increase in momentum, which could help Cherokee County fully recover from the Great Recession.
Those developments include the construction of the replacement Northside Hospital-Cherokee facility in Canton, the opening of the Cherokee County Aquatic Center, an increase in residential building permits in unincorporated Cherokee and its cities and the opening of the Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta in Woodstock.
Just in CoED alone, the office has worked 33 projects to date in 2013. Thirty-eight percent of those prospects have expressed interest in moving into the Cherokee 75 Corporate Park, which is located in one of two opportunity zones inside Cherokee County.
Fifty-eight percent of those prospects were build-to-suit projects and 67 percent were possible relocation of headquarters or regional headquarters projects to Cherokee. The office has also worked to help find 29 suitable film and/or video sites inside Cherokee County as part of Georgia's Camera Ready Communities program.
The business announcements in 2013 also means about $75 million in investments and over 600 jobs for Cherokee, something leaders said could signal a shift in the county's economic outlook.
However, Martin noted the county can't rest on its recent turnaround. More must be done to transition Cherokee from a mostly bedroom community where nearly 80 percent travel outside the county to work to one of several metro Atlanta hubs of quality white collar jobs.
Cherokee must also grow its tax base and become less dependent on residential property taxes.
She also said the county has to expand its inventory to attract more businesses, retain and expand existing industries, help in small business development, recruit new businesses and work to retain talent inside the county.
Furthermore, leaders must work to shift the perception of Cherokee County. Martin noted residents and prospective entrepreneurs must also believe Cherokee is not only a great place to live, but "they can have a business here as well."
"We've got to have a self-sustaining community," she said. "We cannot rely on Atlanta."