GA. 400 STILL THE FUTURE: Economic outlook positive

‘Disproportionate growth’ on metro Atlanta’s Northside

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A respected real estate data analyst and market forecaster says Forsyth County and its neighbor, Gwinnett County, lead the growth in the state of Georgia.

Frank K. Norton Jr., president of the Gainesville-based Norton Agency, shared his data and insight, compiled in his annual publication Native Intelligence.

Norton drew about 600 business and community leaders to the 24th annual Economic Outlook Breakfast Feb. 4, hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club. The breakfast was held at the Forsyth Conference Center, 7745 Majors Road.

Last year, Norton told how Forsyth County was the No. 1 issuer of permits in 2012, but in 2013, it was surpassed by Gwinnett County, which permitted 2,500 single-family homes — 100 more than Forsyth County.

“Between the two of you, you represent the lion’s share of what’s being permitted in all of Atlanta, Ga.,” Norton said. “What we still have is a disproportionate share of growth on the north and northeast side.”

Gwinnett has a population of 800,000 people and it only exceeded Forsyth County’s permits by 100.

Forsyth County’s population is about 190,000.

“That’s a huge achievement for this county and I believe a success,” he said.

The average house price in Forsyth County exceeds that of Gwinnett by $40,000.

“The reason people are locating and continue to relocate here is that the average price of a house in Forsyth County is $340,000,” Norton said. “But the average in North Fulton is $510,000.”

Norton said Forsyth County’s school system, quality of life and reasonable taxes continue to attract new residents. Projections say that by 2030, the county’s population will more than triple to 600,000 people.

“You are leading the resurgence in Atlanta,” Norton said.

For a community that had struggled over the years, Norton credits the area’s success to the opening of Ga. 400 in 1971.

“That road opened up the opportunity,” he said. “It opened up business growth.”

Ga. 400 is still the future, he said.

“Look around for all the vacant land that is in between the developed pieces,” he said.

Norton said the county will need wider roads, additional school land, sewer and fiber optic cable implementation to be able to handle the future growth.

“If you look at the office market statistics, you’ll see that 60 percent of all the office leasing in the last three years has taken place within a five-mile radius of Ga. 400 and the Perimeter,” Norton said. “The axis has shifted from Downtown and Buckhead up to Ga. 400 and is headed further this way.”

Norton needs more retail businesses such as the Collection at Forsyth, to capture more of the local shopping dollars.

“Your true power is the 190,000 people that live here at the family income rate that they have, and the consumable disposable income that they have,” he said. “That is leaking out of this county.

“Everyone says, we don’t want Atlanta,” Norton said. “We are not Atlanta. We are Forsyth County and we have a unique identity. And if we don’t protect and enhance that identity, all is lost.”

Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer James McCoy said Norton’s data brings a lot of eye-opening opportunities.

“It’s incredible to see the actual numbers,” McCoy said. “You can see it, and you can feel the activity going on. And it’s a whole other thing to see the data driving that.

Real economic opportunity is here, McCoy said. But he cautioned that the county has to continue to make real investments in its transportation and sewer infrastructure.

The business growth, as much as residential, is going to continue, he said.

“We are going to see an incredible increase in number of jobs and capital investment from private industry,” McCoy said. “I’m very impressed with it.”

For more, visit http://www.nortonintelligence.com.