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A day-to-day glance at the area's business community -- what's new, what's happening and what's being heard on the streets. Got info? E-mail

Cobb County Finance Department wins national award

Teamwork Success Women Celebrate

Congratulations to the Cobb County Finance Department, which has been selected as the 2014 winner of the Hyland Software OnBase Solutions Expert Group Peer to Peer Award. The Going Paperless project has been led by Financial Management Analyst Stefani Balli and her team. Efficiencies and cost savings — in the short and long term — are a result of this project’s implementation. This project touches every department and elected official office in the county and is a next generation way of doing business.


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Infrastructure improvements coming to East Cobb

Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott looks over plans with Jane Strickland with Cobb County Department of Transportation at the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Circle 75 Parkway on Friday. Staff/Jeff Stanton


About a billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure improvements are coming to East Cobb over the next two to three years, according to Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area.

Ott also said many of these improvements are unrelated to the Braves stadium deal and have been in the works for some time.

Among the biggest projects are a “diverging diamond” interchange at the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Interstate 75, improvements to Windy Hill Road east and west of the interstate, a complete reconfiguration of the interchange at Atlanta Road and I-285 and “reversible lanes” coming to I-75.

The number and scope of the projects in the area prompted Ott to put together a committee of 20-25 government officials to coordinate between all the departments involved, including the water authority, parks and recreation, transportation, communication and information services departments.

“It just seemed to make sense that we bring all these groups together so that everybody knew what everyone else was doing, and also so that we could coordinate communication with the public as to where there might be congestion today or next week,” Ott said.

Ott said the information services department was brought in to help disseminate the information about the projects and their impact on traffic.

“Some of the early discussions have been enhancing or beefing up some of the systems the county already has. We have the Friday updates. We have CobbLine,” Ott said. “It’s really all about what is the best way to get the information out to the most number of people.”

The committee is also working on a new mobile app being developed to help citizens track the projects and the resulting traffic, and Ott said he hopes it will have the ability to provide users this information in real time.

In addition to public outreach, Ott said the committee has also made it a priority to coordinate their efforts so any work requiring a lane closure can be done at once, instead of closing the lane multiple times.

“If you have a plan to coordinate lane closures, where if one department is going to have it closed for this period of time, if another department would have closed it, well, hey, let’s have everybody in there at the same time whenever possible,” Ott said.

Windy Hill Road getting major facelift

The county plans to begin construction on at least four major projects along Windy Hill Road in the next two years.

Three of the projects, near the intersection of Windy Hill Road and I-75, are set to begin this fall, according to Jane Stricklin, District 2 Engineer for the Cobb Department of Transportation. Stricklin said the county will open bids for the projects August 28, with commissioners later approving the contracts.

Stricklin said designs for the three projects were paid for by the Cumberland Community Improvement District and construction for all three projects is likely to begin in October and be complete by March 2017.

The first project will include adding a median and additional lane on each side of Windy Hill Road from Cobb Parkway to I-75 and replacing existing sidewalks along the Windy Hill stretch. The project is estimated to cost a total of about $14.5 million, which Stricklin said would come from the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax.

Ott said this is essential to improving traffic flow through the corridor, especially since the Macland Road Connector opened in 2011.

“When Macland Road was connected to Windy Hill, it added 14,000 cars a day to Windy Hill,” Ott said.

East of I-75, from the interstate to Spectrum Circle, a second project will add a median and reconfigure the existing six lanes into three lanes traveling in either direction. Stricklin said the project, also financed with 2011 SPLOST funds, is estimated to cost a total of about $4.7 million.

Ott cited safety concerns, as well as traffic flow improvements, as the reason for this project.

“There has been some safety concerns in front of Pappadeaux’s restaurant,” Ott said. “And so, what’s happening is, the traffic light currently at Leland and Interstate North (Parkway) is basically being moved in front of Pappadeaux’s. And so they’ll be some realignment of Leland Drive to come out around behind the BP that’s there.”

A third project on Windy Hill Road from Spectrum Circle to Windy Ridge Parkway will add a westbound lane to ease congestion. Sidewalks on the westbound side of Windy Hill will be replaced as well. Stricklin said the project is estimated to cost a total of $3.3 million and will be financed with 2005 SPLOST funds and a $1.5 million grant from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which was obtained by the Cumberland CID.

The fourth major project to improve Windy Hill Road is the diverging diamond interchange to be built on the bridge over I-75. The interchange is designed to allow vehicles to cross to the opposite sides of the road on the bridge when entering or exiting the freeway, eliminating the need for those drivers to make left turns. The county is waiting for approval of the project from the Georgia DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, Stricklin said.

The intersection of Windy Hill Road and I-75 has been studied for at least a decade, Stricklin said, and the county decided to implement the interchange because he said it is projected to reduce accidents, it is cost-effective and the county can use the existing bridge, rather than building a new one.

Stricklin said the interchange is set to be funded by a combination of a $2.4 million grant from the GTIB, a $6 million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and about $5 million from the Cumberland CID; the remainder of the $20 million project will be financed with 2011 SPLOST funds. Stricklin said the Cobb DOT is looking to break ground in fall 2015 and complete the interchange by March 2017.

Reversible lanes and stadium traffic

The state transportation department will attempt to thin traffic in and out of Atlanta by laying roads that funnel commuters in different directions depending on the time of day.

Georgia’s “Managed Lanes” project will add nearly 30 miles of reversible toll lanes along the west side of I-75.

Stricklin said the lanes, which will head south in the mornings and north in the evenings, would be completed by 2018.

GDOT lists the estimated project cost as $834 million.

The lanes will run near the new home of the Atlanta Braves.

Even though a Cobb Superior Court judge validated the bonds the county plans to issue to finance the stadium’s construction Friday, there will be a period of 30 days to allow for appeals, according to Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee. And even after the appeals process ends, it will likely take 30 to 60 days for the county to have the money to pay the construction firm, Lee said, though he noted construction has already begun on the site to adjust the grading and move two gas lines that run through the property.

Ott said the upcoming road improvements are unrelated to the Braves stadium.

“Clearly these improvements were contemplated prior to the Braves, but they’re not going to hurt what’s going on with the Braves. They’re going to help,” he said. “And I think what needs to happen between now and opening day is to take a look and say, ‘Here’s what we already have in the pipeline. Do we need to have some other projects that will further enhance it?’”

Ott said county officials have a meeting about the Braves project about every two weeks, and the DOT is currently looking into possible solutions to increased traffic in the area. Still, these projects were a priority for his committee.

“It’s an ongoing process. You have to get stuff out of the ground so you know those are going to move forward, then you continue analysis as to what additional things you want to do for the Braves,” Ott said.

Private growth and public improvement

Rob Hosack, the county’s community development director, said the area has seen a burst of development ahead of the infrastructure improvements.

“We have seen a really big uptick,” Hosack said. “What’s interesting is we actually started seeing this in advance of the Braves development.”

Hosack estimated “conservatively” the Cumberland area has hosted $250 million worth of new construction in the past two years — and said he expected to see the same type of investment over the next two.

The county put together three master plans outlining a vision for the area’s development, Hosack said, specifying where “intensely-developed” quarters would go and where “cushion” quarters of less development would fall.

“I think we created a lot of buy-in,” Hosack said of the master plans, adding businesses were encouraged to bring development to the area once the county “had a blueprint to follow.”

He highlighted the growth of residential development around the area, touting the construction of two new “in-town residential communities” that will provide apartment living in proximity to both the urban locale of Cumberland and trails that will allow residents to walk to Chattahoochee National Park.

Hosack said the complexes offer a “huge incentive” to both commercial and residential developers mulling a move to the area.

He said the county transportation department has “done a great job getting out in front” of impending traffic interruptions that will accompany all of the construction activity.

“(Cobb DOT) has got a very detailed plan, taking into account not only the construction related to road projects, but also the stuff we anticipate being under development in the private sector,” Hosack said.

(Reprinted from The Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Ricky Leroux and Sarah Westwood, July 26, 2014. Read the original article HERE.) 

She Ames to succeed

Lisa Ames works in her home office on Monday. Staff/C.B. Schmelter


Lisa Ames, an East Cobb resident and owner of Catalyst Consulting Group, aims for the positive and helps others do the same. As a Gallup certified professional strengths coach, Ames helps her clients achieve greater success in their lives, careers and businesses. Ames utilizes the StrengthsFinder Assessment produced by Gallup, an industry leader that has studied human behavior for over 50 years.

According to Ames, the StrengthsFinder Assessment translates a person’s natural patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors into a language of talent. Identifying and developing talent is essential to build towering strengths that bring exceptional performance.

More than 9 million people have taken StrengthsFinder. Ames is one of only a hand-full of Gallup certified coaches in the Southeast, so business is good. “Although many people and businesses have used StrengthsFinder, the problem for many is knowing how to bring their results to life,” said Ames, who is trained to help each individual get the most from their results and put their strengths into action.

Organizations wanting to improve their business outcomes, as well as the wellbeing of their people, often turn to Ames. For organizations, “Gallup has found the strongest path to employee engagement is to invest in strengths development. When managers develop the strengths of their teams, employee engagement goes up and drives increases in productivity, profitability, sales and employee retention,” Ames said.

It’s not only organizations that benefit from a strengths focus, but individuals benefit as well. “When a person starts doing more of what they do best, it creates optimism, confidence, and provides a sense of direction — it can lead to great things,” Ames explained.

Ames was introduced to StrengthsFinder in 2003 at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, where she worked as a Sales Director and implemented what she learned with many of her sales teams. “StrengthsFinder really changed me as a leader and how I led our team. It had profound impact. Performance soared as our culture strengthened in trust, teamwork and appreciation for each other,” she said.

Ames is so passionate about her strengths work that, after 16 years at Pfizer, she founded Catalyst Consulting Group. “I really wanted to give my best to help others. (This work) taught me to be the best leader I could be. It’s transformative, it’s empowering and I want others to benefit from my experiences,” said Ames, who had her “Aha” moment when she heard a past teammate that she strengths coached speak at his father’s funeral.

“In his eulogy, he beautifully spoke about his personal strengths (in StrengthsFinder terms) and shared how those particular strengths came from his father. It was powerful. It was moving. In paying homage to his father, he chose to frame his message with insight from our StrengthsFinder coaching. I couldn’t believe our coaching time years prior continued to have meaning for him, especially at that level,” she explained.

“That was when I knew that strengths coaching was in my future. I’ve started a new chapter in my life and I’m excited. I believe in this,” Ames said.

With her daughter, Emily, entering Walton High School this year, Ames learned about Gallup StrengthsQuest, a tool similar to StrengthsFinder, but in a context specifically designed for young adults in high school and college. Word has been getting out about Ames’ work with StrengthsQuest and requests keep coming in. “Our offerings are certainly not inexpensive, and it is amazing to see the dedication parents have to help their college-bound children excel,” Ames added.

For more information, contact Ames at

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Click HERE to read the original article.) 

East Cobber creates


John Cristadoro, an East Cobb resident, has launched the next big thing in the Rental Property industry.  Your Rental is a web-based rental home listing service. After only a year John and his team have grown Your Rental Resource to rival the largest rental home websites.  John, along with his wife,  Gosia,  and their two children live in East Cobb.

Your Rental comes to Georgia with the intention of revolutionizing how tenants and landlords connect.  The web-based listing company provides an absolutely FREE service to landlords while offering those serious tenants a place to search through thousands of up to date, accurate listings.  In addition, YRR has partnered with numerous brands including Gas South, Aarons Rents and UPS My Choice in an effort to offer discounts on products and services related to their move.

Your Rental Resource is the most effective tool for those too busy to search hundreds of websites which may or may not offer a multitude of living options.  It’s a simple as deciding where you want to live, how much money you want to spend and what exactly you are looking for, then speak to the landlord directly to start your application process.

Searching for that perfect Townhouse with hardwood floors in Marietta?  Maybe a cute four bedroom home in the Walton School district?  Your Rental Resource provides every type of option on the market and it’s absolutely free to list a vacancy.

Many sites that offer listings to review either focus on one type of property like apartments or are a nationally based site.  Your Rental Resource is a locally focused company with Georgia Renters in mind. Don’t you hate when you think you’ve found the perfect rental property only to be disappointed when you speak to the landlord and find out it’s been rented for weeks already?   Your Rental Resource strives to provide the most up to date information for its tenant members. Check out their website at:

(Source: Your Rental 

Plan for your future with Don Johnson Insurance



East Cobb’s Don Johnson handles auto, life, health, home and business insurance. 1230 Canton Road. Call him at 770-973-8545. Voted Cobb Chamber Small Business of the Year.

Thank you for advertising with EAST COBBER.


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Got a plan for social security? Ben Clark can help.


When is the best time to start drawing Social Security? 62? 66? 70? Have you considered what strategy you will use? Sometimes the  answer is simple. Sometimes not. We can discuss your options with you. Call for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Got a plan?
Cornerstone Wealth Management
3115 Roswell Road, Suite 102, Marietta

Thanks for advertising with EAST COBBER!


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19th Annual EAST COBBER Parade & Festival Scheduled for September 13

2014 EAST COBBER Parade & Festival Logo


This fall, East Cobb will once again welcome the hometown tradition of a community parade and festival when the 19th Annual EAST COBBER Parade & Festival takes place on September 13, 2014. The EAST COBBER Parade features floats and high school marching bands as well as a cornucopia of East Cobb groups and will be followed by the EAST COBBER Festival featuring local entertainment, carnival games and plenty of good food.


EAST COBBER extends its mission of building a sense of community by establishing a hometown tradition of a community parade and festival. As the producers of the first parade and festival in East Cobb County, the EAST COBBER aims to establish a strong network between schools, businesses, government and clubs to create a showcase event and annual tradition for East Cobb County. The EAST COBBER Parade has become the largest parade in all of Cobb County and is the only community-wide event for East Cobb.

The EAST COBBER Parade and Festival aims to builds a sense of community and reinforce East Cobb’s status as one of the best places to live in the Atlanta area by giving thanks and special tribute to those who contribute to the quality of life in East Cobb: such as, principals, schools, clubs, elected officials, and civic leaders. Overall, the objectives of this special event are as follows:

- Spotlight the people who contribute to the quality of life in East Cobb County.

- Provide opportunities for various groups of the community to interact.

- Boost the image of East Cobb to external audiences as well as to help East Cobb residents feel good about living in East Cobb.

- Celebrate the arts by providing a showcase for local fine arts performers and groups at the Festival.

- Promote economic development by providing local businesses with an event that demonstrates their community support and allows company personnel to interact with prospects and customers.

Because the EAST COBBER Parade & Festival is privately funded, contributions from local businesses are vital to keeping this tradition alive in East Cobb County. For sponsorship information or to request a festival booth application, contact 770-640-7070.

EAST COBBER Parade 2014 Details:

Date: Saturday, September 13, 2014
Official Parade Start: 10am start

Staging Area: Mt. Bethel Elementary School, 1210 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, GA 30068

Parade Route: Parade travels one mile south from Princeton Lakes Drive to Fountains of Olde Towne Shopping Center, 736 Johnson Ferry Road.

Road Closure: *Johnson Ferry Road from Lower Roswell Road to Roswell Road will shut down at approximately 9:45am

To register for the 2014 EAST COBBER Parade, contact our office at 770-640-7070!



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Social Security Planning

Deciding when to start drawing Social Security is a question that is much more complicated than most people realize.  And it is an extremely important consideration for most of us.  Some of the rules seem easy but the impact on retirement enjoyment requires a good understanding of the effect a start date has.

This decision is even more impactful today than it was in the past.  According to the Social Security Administration, approximately a third of 65 years old will live to age 90!  As an example, consider someone who has a Full Retirement Age of 66 and a full benefit of $2000 per month. If they start drawing at 62 they will only receive $1500 each month but if they can wait until age 70, their benefits increase to $2,644.  $1500 vs $2,644 is a wide range. So, when should you start?

Once again, it’s complicated.  Considerations include spousal benefits, life expectancy, other financial resources, taxation of benefits and more.  Life Expectancy is the big unknown.  If someone passes away at 100 they should have waited until age 70 to start.  While no one knows their own date of death, we can look at our health, our family history and come to a reasonable projection.  If married, the joint life needs to be considered.

It is complicated enough to decide when to start for a single person but it is even more complicated for a married couple.  What is their difference in ages?  What are the relative benefits which each has earned?  Will spousal benefits come into play while both are living?  What will the survivor benefit be?

One resource is and you can read all about it.  Of course, being a government agency, their employees are forbidden to give advice.

Another resource is to sit down with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNING™ professional and explore the various alternatives and see the impact on you and on your family each choice has.  This decision has important implications on your finances.  It may influence your standard of living for the rest of your life.  It may determine whether or not you outlive your money.

So, when should you start?  The best answer is: “It depends”.  Each situation is unique and you need a customized, confidential review.  Social Security Planning is important for you and for your family.  Very important.

Clark_BenWritten by Ben L. Clark, CFP®. Clark is a Private Wealth Manager in East Cobb and he can be reached at 678-401-5023. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.

Vonage Business Solutions Relocating to Cobb County



Vonage Business Solutions, a leading communications provider, has announced that it will be moving to the Towers at Wildwood Plaza on Windy Hill Road in Cobb County. The New Jersey-based company will be inhabiting nearly 80,000 square feet, giving the company ample room to grow from their current location in Midtown, Atlanta. The relocation is expected to bring 800 new jobs to Cobb.

“Our move to Cobb County and the Wildwood Towers was driven by our desire to offer our employees a great facility and expanded amenities,” Wain Kellum, president of Vonage Business Solutions, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Wednesday. “We believe this move will help us retain and attract employees from the Atlanta area, which has a highly talented labor pool, particularly in the area of technology.”

When Vonage announced their plan to expand earlier this year, Cobb’s economic development team rallied to meet the prospect’s needs. “I have always made it very clear that this community is all about economic development and job growth,” said Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee. “Our team is about results and as you can see, Vonage is yet another example of a community working hard to gain those results. I am thrilled to have a recognized brand such as Vonage Business Solutions in Cobb County and look forward to a strong partnership with them for many years.”

Brooks Mathis, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Cobb Chamber and executive director of Cobb’s Competitive EDGE, added, “Creating jobs has been a focus of our EDGE program since the very beginning. Having a single point of contact for economic development projects has helped us rally our team to make projects like Vonage land in our community. It is imperative that when a company calls on us, we be responsive and work hard to meet their needs. Without the team-focused Cobb way, this project would not have been a success. The Chamber and Cobb County’s leadership in Chairman Tim Lee, Rob Hosack and Fire Marshal Jay Westbrook made our prospect’s needs a top priority. That attention translates into job creation.”

Vonage continues to develop innovations that enhance the customer experience with VoIP communications. Vonage’s technology serves approximately 2.4 million subscribers. The Vonage World plan offers unlimited calling to more than 60 countries with popular features, like call waiting, call forwarding and visual voicemail.

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Flip Through JuneJuly2014

EAST COBBER is accepting articles and advertising for our August issue, but TUESDAY is the deadline for entries. Share your good news with your neighbors and potential customers! August features include the Dining Guide and our Back to School section!

The deadline is Tuesday, July 15! 

Our magazine has an estimated readership of 40,000 in the zip codes of 30062, 30066, 30067 , 30068 and a portion of 30075.  In addition we publish the entire edition on, extending your visibility to our exclusive audience. Our adrates are available at

Click HERE for advertising information and rates. 

Advertising in the EAST COBBER magazine  is the most cost effective way for your business to reach your target market and let your customers know you are very much a part of this community.