Like much of the nation, Cobb County has been on an economic roller coaster ride the past 10 years, experiencing ups in the early 2000s with a booming housing market and commercial construction, followed by a challenging dip around 2008 and the years that followed as a result of the Great Recession. But, that hasn’t stopped Cobb from continuing to grow — the area has managed to slowly rebound, and that is obvious in the county’s steady population increases (about 70,000 residents since 2005), expansions in the highway and interstate systems, downtown improvements in Cobb’s municipalities, introduction of the Atlanta Braves development and much more.
For Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins, the last 10 years has been challenging, specifically in light of the September 2009 flood that destroyed about 700 area homes after the rise of Sweetwater Creek; but the city’s continued efforts to maintain and keep the Threadmill Complex fully rented has helped ease that pain. “We have a list of people that are wanting to rent here now,” Jerkins says of the 230,000-square-foot Threadmill Complex on nearly 20 acres of land. Originally purchased by the city in 2001 for about $2 million, Austell’s city council approved a 20-year bond valued at $7 million to help renovate the building.
Inside Threadmill, residents can visit public and government tenants, including attorneys offices, a warrant division of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, the North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy, Jerkins’ office and the public library, just to name a few. “I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve accomplished while in office, buying this building,” says 73-year-old Jerkins, who adds that he is running for his last four-year term in November after serving 26 years in office. “We have more than $1 million in rent coming in from this building.”
But, outside the Threadmill Complex, Austell continues rebuilding itself following the 2009 flood. As Cobb’s smallest city with a few more than 6,900 residents, Jerkins says Austell experienced a dip in population but is bouncing back. “We are getting back to the population we had prior to the flood,” he adds. “We had a real serious matter there, though.” For about two days following the flood, there was only one way in and one way out of the city. Two railway lines, in addition to the flooded creek, kept residents from coming and going as they pleased.
Fast-forward six years and Jerkins says the city has bought about 100 houses that they are condemning for safety and aesthetics. Since 2009, about 100 new homes have also been built, recouping the city’s residential count.