Work­force, eco­nomic devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties in 2018

♦ PSD, DAPC and Cham­ber all about pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance in their own way over past year

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick kmyrick@polk­stan­dard­jour­nal.net

Lo­cal ed­u­ca­tors and of­fi­cials are all about mak­ing a greater im­pact on the com­mu­nity over the past year with new ini­tia­tives, and got to show what they’ve achieved dur­ing the 2018 State of the Com­mu­nity event.

The an­nual din­ner and ad­dress from lo­cal lead­ers spon­sored by H&R Block, Ge­or­gia Power and Fam­ily Sav­ings Credit Union was all about growth not just for lo­cal gov­ern­ments, but also for or­ga­ni­za­tions help­ing busi­nesses and in­dus­tries, and for ed­u­ca­tion as well.

Among all the no­table changes in 2018, those hap­pen­ing within the schools seek to have an im­pact on not just the chil­dren who make up the fu­ture work­force, but those who have been out of a job and now find the la­bor mar­ket much eas­ier to re-en­ter.

Here’s how ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness and in­dus­try have fared in Polk County in 2018:

Wrap-around ser­vices a big fo­cus for PSD

It used to be that schools wor­ried about hav­ing enough text­books and desks for stu­dents to use in class­rooms across Polk

School Dis­trict, just like all pub­lic schools ex­pe­ri­ence across the na­tion. Yet times have changed, and ed­u­ca­tors find them­selves in a whole new en­vi­ron­ment where they have to not just think about a child’s safety within their build­ings, but also how they are do­ing at home as well.

PSD Su­per­in­ten­dent Lau­rie Atkins was joined by Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy CEO and As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Katie Thomas both traded off on top­ics of how the sys­tem has been forced to change their fo­cus over the past years, es­pe­cially in the wake of deadly mass shoot­ings in­side of a Park­land, Fla., high school back in Fe­bru­ary.

Atkins said a se­cu­rity re­view had been un­der­way that day when the news broke of the deaths of teach­ers and stu­dents alike in Florida, and drove home the need for PSD to do more.

She talked about the sev­eral se­cu­rity im­prove­ments made at lo­cal schools to force vis­i­tors into front of­fices and away from stu­dents when they en­ter a school, the ad­di­tion of fenc­ing, new door locks and much more to keep stu­dents safe. The big­gest ad­di­tion she ad­dressed was the in­clu­sion of the Polk School Dis­trict Po­lice Depart­ment, which pro­vides an of­fi­cer on each cam­pus with the help of School Re­source Of­fi­cers from the Cedar­town and Rock­mart Po­lice De­part­ments al­ready in place.

Atkins also talked about on­go­ing con­struc­tion projects thanks to the 2017 E-SPLOST ex­ten­sion, al­low­ing the forth­com­ing com­ple­tion of the new Agri­cul­ture Ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­ity at Rock­mart High School and the lon­gawaited Fine Arts wing at Cedar­town High School.

“Hope­fully this time next year I’ll be able to show you won­der­ful pic­tures of the new fa­cil­i­ties,” Atkins said.

Thomas then came up to talk about the Polk School Dis­trict’s new Grad­u­ate Polk pro­gram, and how much good it is of­fer­ing stu­dents as they pro­vide a va­ri­ety of help to fam­i­lies in the com­mu­nity.

She re­minded the au­di­ence of the suc­cess the Polk County Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy has en­joyed be­fore she dove into the real heart of her pre­sen­ta­tion how­ever. The 33 ca­reer path­ways, 20-plus col­lege classes and the top Dual En­roll­ment pro­gram in the state are just some of what she dis­cussed as her role as the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of PCCCA.

“That’s not enough,” she said. “We can say those are some of our ac­co­lades, and I’m proud of them con­sid­er­ing where we started. But that’s not enough.”

In an ef­fort to make sure that no stu­dents are left be­hind – in­clud­ing those sleep­ing on the floor of friends rooms be­cause they have no place to go – the sys­tem has in­vested in Grad­u­ate Polk, where youth can go to get a va­ri­ety of help within schools them­selves.

It in­cludes a food pantry and cloth­ing closet at each high school within their PCCCA wings, spa­ces for stu­dents to re­ceive help in non­tra­di­tional learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments and on dif­fer­ent sched­ules es­pe­cially for those who dropped out and want to fin­ish their ed­u­ca­tion, and youth and teens go­ing through many men­tal, emo­tional or fam­ily-re­lated is­sues im­pact­ing their ed­u­ca­tion with the as­sis­tance of the pro­gram in place with Wil­low­brooke at Tan­ner.

“With alternate sched­ul­ing avail­able, we’ve had three grad­u­ate so far that were on the dropout list pre­vi­ously,” Thomas said. “We’re bring­ing them back and giv­ing them pur­pose and hope.”

A free English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage class be­ing held at Cedar­town High School and funded thanks to Gil­dan have signed up 60 par­tic­i­pants af­ter start­ing just two weeks prior to the Oct. 30 event, Thomas added.

“Let’s start help­ing now, let’s make a dif­fer­ence,” Thomas chal­lenged the au­di­ence.

Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment go­ing strong

In her sec­ond year at the helm of the Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Polk County, Missy Ken­drick fi­nally got a chance to go be­fore lo­cal lead­ers and talk about all pos­i­tive growth hap­pen­ing with in­dus­try and busi­ness.

Two years ago she was just a few weeks into her new role, and in 2017 the sched­ule didn’t per­mit her get­ting to ad­dress the com­mu­nity about eco­nomic devel­op­ment growth.

So Ken­drick was glad to get to share her ex­pe­ri­ences in her lead­er­ship role, and talk about the pos­i­tives Polk County pro­vides to both ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries and po­ten­tial new­com­ers alike.

She def­i­nitely ex­pects new neigh­bors in the months and years to come.

Ken­drick de­scribed eco­nomic devel­op­ment as a three-legged stool dur­ing her Oct. 30 pre­sen­ta­tion, one that needs the strength of lo­cal star­tups and en­trepreneurs, ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries and new in­dus­try to cre­ate the right en­vi­ron­ment for growth.

Polk County has some­thing for all of those legs, whether it be work­ing to pro­vide a good en­vi­ron­ment for en­trepreneurs to start an en­ter­prise, or a guide for lo­cals who are in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing a startup.

Ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries are work­ing on their ex­pan­sions too, like past an­nounce­ments from Meg­gitt or the forth­com­ing com­ple­tion of the new Cedarstream head­quar­ters.

“We’ve seen con­tin­ued ev­i­dence of strong pro-busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” she said. “In just the past 2 years, 11 in­dus­tries have in­vested $85 mil­lion into ex­pan­sions in Polk County, and have cre­ated or re­tained 1,600 jobs.”

New in­dus­try part­ners mov­ing in aren’t just all about man­u­fac­tur­ing ei­ther.

For in­stance, the train­ing cen­ter for the In­ter­na­tional Union of Op­er­at­ing Engi­neers Lo­cal 926 an­nounced back in June is get­ting all of the I’s dot­ted and T’s crossed be­fore it gets well un­der­way in the months to come.

What she also talked about that is just as im­por­tant is the need for new lead­er­ship on the lo­cal level to take up chal­lenges and pro­vide Ken­drick with ad­vo­cates in the com­mu­nity as a whole when po­ten­tial in­dus­tries come look­ing at Polk County.

That’s why she said the DAPC worked with the Cham­ber to re-work Polk’s lead­er­ship pro­gram and have since seen two classes in 2017 and 2018 go through the pro­gram.

Ken­drick also said an­other piece that will help keep the three-legged stool of eco­nomic devel­op­ment sturdy for years to come is a rene­go­ti­ated in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment be­tween the DAPC and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, which brings the Polk School Dis­trict within the agree­ment again as well.

She said her great­est hope is that in the near fu­ture she’ll be able to an­nounce a new in­dus­try mov­ing into Cedar­town’s SPEC build­ing in the North­side In­dus­trial Park, and get work­ing on a fu­ture build­ing in Rock­mart.

“I feel very strongly by this time next year, we’ll have a con­tract on our cur­rent SPEC build­ing and will be start­ing con­struc­tion on one in Rock­mart,” Ken­drick said.

She added that with low un­em­ploy­ment and pos­i­tive growth over­all, the eco­nomic devel­op­ment out­look is good for Polk County.

How­ever, she did add that busi­ness in­vest­ment slowed down some due to un­cer­tainty on the na­tional stage.

“I do ex­pect that ac­tiv­ity will pick back up again af­ter the midterms, and I’m pleased to say work­ing with part­ners and stake­hold­ers,” she said. “We will con­tinue to bring the world to our front door, and in­vite them in.”

Cham­ber see­ing own growth in mem­bers, pro­grams

Blair El­rod is less than a year into her job as the Polk County Cham­ber of Com­merce Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, but got a big com­pli­ment from at­ten­dees at the State of the Com­mu­nity event: a stand­ing ova­tion for her ef­forts since she took over the job.

She was able to re­port dur­ing the Cham­ber-or­ga­nized event that mem­ber­ship is grow­ing since Jan­uary, six new pro­grams have been in­sti­tuted and new board mem­bers will be com­ing on in 2019.

Among the items she touted was the start of the Chick-fil-A Lunch and Learn se­ries, PolkX, the Down­town Come­back pro­gram, H&R Block’s spon­sored Hal­loween Hoopla and the fold­ing of the Rock­mart Busi­ness Al­liance into the Cham­ber as the Down­town Rock­mart Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.

El­rod also an­nounced a new dis­count card pro­gram on sale now that will al­low lo­cal shop­pers to get dis­counts at small busi­nesses dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, are good for sev­eral months af­ter and also en­ter in­di­vid­u­als into give­aways lead­ing up to Christ­mas, in­clud­ing a $1,000 prize at the end of the sea­son.

More de­tails can be found about that pro­gram on the Cham­ber’s Face­book page or on Polk­ge­or­gia. com, or in the forth­com­ing edi­tion of the Stan­dard Jour­nal on Nov. 14.

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