State of the Community 2017

State Rep. Trey Kelley talked about the positive growth in Georgia during his time to talk about the State of the State in the 2017 State of the Community address held in October. (Kevin Myrick/Standard Journal)

The annual State of the Community address not only provides local municipalities in Polk County an opportunity to talk about their accomplishments for 2017, but also for local organizations who want to talk about their goals being met annually well, and state leaders too.

In part 2 of our coverage, we take a brief overlook at what some of the community organizations and groups like the Development Authority and CASA have to say about how their year turned out, and what they are doing to improve.

Where does the state stand?

State Rep. Trey Kelley brought one message to local leaders and chamber members during the October State of the Community event: Georgia is seeing prosperity, and is the top state in the nation for business.

“For the fourth year in a row, this is an accomplishment we’ve all made together and we should be proud of it,” Kelley said.

The 16th District representative talked about the accomplishments the state legislature undertook in 2017, from keeping the budget focused on education being a top priority, but also on additional spending given over to improving Georgia’s infrastructure in the coming years, with both those efforts ending with more state funds returning to pay teachers and pave roads.

He also talked about raises given to state-funded law enforcement and public safety organizations, and growth of the state overall.

Kelley said his goals in the coming year’s term will be to continue to push for tax reform, a campaign promise long made and one he intends to keep.

He also touted how much state leaders are talking up Polk County in the past years.

“When I’m in Atlanta, I often get told that they come here to Polk County and love it here, especially in this wonderful venue (In the Woods.)” Kelley said. “What an exciting time it is for our community.”

Chamber seeing growth, is #PolkProud

Membership roles are growing by the month, and the Chamber is all about promoting how much local residents are #PolkProud of their community in 2017.

The Chamber of Commerce set several goals in 2017, among them working with the Development Authority of Polk County to start the LEAD Polk initiative, encourage membership growth, and get more involvement from the state involved in growing tourism efforts. Those will come to fruition in January 2018, when officials are set to come to Polk County and help develop strategies for continuing to grow tourism locally.

The Chamber also developed partnerships with the Downtown Cedartown Association and the Rockmart Business Alliance to work together to provide better services to merchants.

Chamber officials also continue to work on an initiative to create a Polk County Chamber Foundation.

DAPC reports growth, LEAD Polk Class of 2017

There was a lot of good news for the Development Authority of Polk County, the organization that usually partners with industries to get new businesses to invest in Polk County, and existing ones to grow.

Cedartown and Rockmart both saw their investments in 2017, and DAPC Chair David Williams was happy to champion the areas of capital growth made by those existing employers in Polk County. Miura completed an expansion, JCG Farms Feed Mill is still under construction but making a multimillion replacement of their plant, and announced earlier in the year was Meggitt’s big plan to expand and hire as well in Rockmart.

Cedartown was no stranger to the spending either. The HON Company is hiring and spending on new equipment, Kimoto Tech finished their new line and Cedarstream is building a new production facility in the Northside Industrial Park.

Williams was also quick to tout the other big news from the DAPC: their partnership with the Chamber to create LEAD Polk, a leadership and community training program designed to get more people involved in Polk County business, government and philanthropic organizations.

Himself a member of the 2017 class that graduates on Thursday, Williams said that it has provided a great benefit to all those who are participating.

CASA seeking help for children in court

One of the items the community still needs work to improve is helping children who don’t have others to turn to for a voice when they enter the state’s care, and in court as well.

Court Appointed Special Advocates executive director Belinda Bentley said the number of volunteers for children who find themselves in foster care through no fault of their own is growing, but isn’t enough yet to match all those who need help with someone who can be a positive person in their lives.

Volunteers in CASA are everyday people trained to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court dependency proceedings. The goal of a CASA volunteer is to find every child a safe, permanent, loving home as soon as possible.

Right now between both Polk and Haralson counties, there are 224 youth in foster care, but only 180 between the Tallapoosa circuit to cover both.

CASA currently has 22 active volunteers to help all of those kids, including several new ones who have been sworn in this fall.

To adequately serve all 224 kids in care, CASA needs 75 active volunteers.

Polk and Haralson counties combined have an adult population of approximately 42,000. CASA could serve every child in care in Polk and Haralson Counties if less than 2 out of every 1,000 residents could commit to becoming a volunteer.

Areas of improvement in education

Polk School District has gone through a lot of change over the past year. A new superintendent Laurie Atkins was hired, the Polk County College and Career Academy campus at Cedartown High School opened, and administrators have been moved around within the district.

But of all the things that Atkins and PCCCA CEO Katie Thomas pointed out have been the most positive for the start of the 2017 school year: a sense of positive change and a return to stability within the system.

Enrollment numbers are still on a growth curve, recent CCRPI numbers have seen positive shifts forward, and graduation rates are growing were among the many items touted by officials during the annual address.

They also asked for support for the upcoming SPLOST extension to 2026 for building programs and maintenance projects, and seeking additional community partners to help build up local business needs for the College and Career Academy for future employees.