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Representatives from SelectCobb, Cobb County Government, City of Smyrna, City of Marietta, WorkSource Cobb, and community stakeholders participated in the Smyrna and Marietta Business Walks on October 27, a semi-annual event dedicated to learning more about the specific needs of local businesses. The event was sponsored by Georgia Power whose generosity and support of economic development helped to make this day a success.

Business Walks are an innovative business retention and expansion program. It allows economic development professionals to visit multiple businesses a day using a team-based approach. Dana Johnson, Executive Director of SelectCobb is a proponent of the business walk methodology, “Business Walks help communities have true engagement with the businesses in their community,” said Johnson. “Also the team-based approach helps our economic development teams cover more ground than traditional retention and expansion programs, and it allows us to share the information we heard to get a broader picture of how we can help our small businesses grow.”

Leveraging one-on-one interviews and facility tours, teams gather feedback from companies on key matters, such as community engagement and services, opportunity for growth, workforce needs and current challenges. Each team uses surveys and collaborative partnerships to promote awareness of the programs and services offered by local and state organizations and it helps identify businesses that may require further assistance. For business owners and operators, meeting with community leadership and economic development professionals allows their voices to be heard and ensures a prosperous business climate for the future.

The value of these meetings is critical said City of Marietta’s Economic Development Manager Daniel Cummings, who emphasized that in order to provide meaningful support for local businesses “Having face-to-face engagement and genuine conversations are crucial.”

Participants visited 13 companies in the cities of Smyrna and Marietta. After a morning of site visits, the groups reconvened at the Smyrna Community Center to discuss their findings and brainstorm solutions to overarching issues, which have resulted in action plans for each organization moving forward.

When asked about the collaborative nature of the event, the City of Smyrna Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy reiterated “[Business] needs cut across jurisdictional lines, and all our businesses benefit by having us work together to solve these issues.  Economic development in Cobb is a team sport.”