Metro Chamber VP to lead Cobb County’s new Georgia Business Success Center

By David Pendered

The Metro Chamber’s vice president of entrepreneurial development has resigned to become executive director of the new Georgia Business Success Center, in Cobb County.

Nancy Wright Whatley

Nancy Wright Whatley

Nancy Wright Whatley’s appointment was announced Tuesday by Kennesaw State University. KSU partnered with the Cobb Chamber to form the new center. Whatley is to report directly to KSU President Daniel Papp.

“Nancy is a dynamic leader with extensive experience in business development and entrepreneurship,” Papp said in a statement. “Her background, combined with the resources of the Cobb Chamber and Kennesaw State, will help position the Georgia Business Success Center as a premier business accelerator, incubator and innovation center for the region.”

Whatley is to start the new position March 23. Friday is her last day at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The Georgia Business Success Center fits into the vision Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has outlined for metro Atlanta’s third largest county. Cobb trails only Fulton and DeKalb counties in terms of total population and the growth rate of population, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Lee has sought to shift Cobb’s brand name for economic growth from economic development to economic expansion. Beginning with the second paragraph of Lee’s Nov. 24 newsletter, titled, “Cobb Development by Another Name is Expansion,” this is what the chairman wrote:

  • “Notice I didn’t say ‘economic development,’ which typically focuses largely on the quantity of new-business contributions to a region’s economy. I mean expansion, where you also focus on the quality of growth.
  • “In September, I told the Council for Quality Growth that we need to shift our way of thinking from exclusively economic development to that of expanding opportunities. I define it as creating the kind of jobs that will attract today’s youth, who are getting their education now, so they won’t see the need to move out of Cobb County when they start their careers.…”
Towers at Wildwood Plaza

Vonage is slated to move 800 employees from Midtown to the Wildwood office development in the Cumberland area. Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has said the communications firm represents the type of business the county should be encouraging to locate in Cobb. Credit:

According to KSU’s statement, Whatley is to, “focus on strategic planning, business development, entrepreneur identification, budget management, fundraising and facility oversight….”

The new center is an outgrowth of the Cobb Chamber’s EDGE program. EDGE was launched in 2013 and has seven strategic goals it intends to accomplish by 2018 by, “encouraging entrepreneurship and aiding small business. The EDGE goals outlined on the chamber’s website include:

  • Create 7,500 jobs;
  • Increase payroll earnings and income by $420 million, and $7,000 per person;
  • Reduce unemployment to 5.5 percent;
  • Increase graduation rates from public schools by 4 percent;
  • Increase the number of college-bound students by 7 percent;
  • Increase existing industry visits from 30 to 100 a year;
  • Increase the quality of life, as measured by KSU’s Quality of Life survey.

“Through this partnership, we’re looking forward to bringing new innovations to Kennesaw State, the Cobb Chamber, Cobb’s Competitive EDGE, the county and the entire state,” David Connell, president/CEO of the Cobb Chamber, said in the statement.. “As a successful entrepreneur, Nancy is the perfect fit as executive director of the Georgia Business Success Center.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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