NORTH FULTON – A new study shows North Fulton’s cities lead Georgia in leading economic growth factors new workers, employment and median income growth. Perhaps surprisingly Johns Creek was No. 1 among Georgia cities.
Sandy Springs (No. 8), Roswell (No. 11) and Alpharetta (No. 13) also shone well, and taken as a group they provide convincing evidence for the economic strength of the region.
The study, conducted by NerdWallet, looked at the growth in Georgia between 2009 and 2012 in three areas: working age population; employment growth; and median income growth.
Johns Creek scored highest among Georgia cities (the score was based on 1/3 for each of the three categories.
Growth among working-age residents in Johns Creek “blew the curve,” coming in at 39.1 percent over the four years of data studied. That translates into 17,000 new residents 16 and older who moved there during the years of the study.
While Johns Creek showed zero employment growth, that was during the height of the recession when Georgia lost thousands of jobs. Most cities showed negative growth in that area.
Johns Creek median income grew 6.9 percent. Among North Fulton cities Alpharetta grew only 1.5 percent, which analyst Maggie Clark said was as much a factor of Alpharetta’s high median income it already possessed.
“Cities on the rise are those that are showing growth in those three critical areas related to economic growth – worker population, employment growth and median income,” Clark said. “The audience for this study is the general consumer. We want to show the people where growth is occurring in their state and how their city is doing compared to their neighbors.
“It speaks well for all of North Fulton that it has the four cities all within the top 13 cities in the state. North Fulton is definitely growing and their incomes are up as well,” she said.
A “rising city” designation is something from the purely-numbers standpoint that tells city planners and local administrators that they are growing, that they are a favored destination and should plan for that.
It is a designation that these North Fulton cities are pleased to have. Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said he was excited to see his city at the top of the list.
“We’ve always known this is a place people want to come,” Bodker said. “Yes, it does show a lot of interest in all North Fulton. What the survey doesn’t show is South Forsyth. Its growth is very similar to North Fulton. All the factors that made us as a region great are present in South Forsyth – schools are competitive with us now for example. They just don’t have the zoning we do yet.”
Roswell Mayor Jere Wood it is always tough to compare yourself to the very top, but when looking at the whole state, you see just how good you are.
“It is great to be validated that you’re doing the right thing. Roswell made a conscious decision to become more business-friendly during this recession. I see this as a confirmation that our work is paying off,” Wood said.
But Wood also acknowledged that all of the cities in North Fulton are “blessed” to be in a great location.
“The fact that all of these cities are doing well is also due to the fact that we are all helping each other. Whether you work in one city or another, live where you do, it is the concentration of good schools and good opportunities. That really makes this region a great spot,” Wood said. “It’s not a surprise, it’s a confirmation.”
Bodker echoed much the same theme.
“The Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce got it right through its Progress Partners North Fulton when they said we have to develop the region as six distinct cities – but one region,” Bodker said.
Then people who come to North Fulton can look at the different personalities of the individual cities works for them.
“It’s easier to choose North Fulton over Gwinnett or South Fulton when you’re selling the region,” he said.
Analyst Clark said what they see as cities “rise” with new population growth and new opportunities, city leaders look ahead.
“What we see in these fast-growing cities is a second stage of development where city leaders want to create a downtown space for people to come together – kind of a walkable, pedestrian-friendly city center,” Clark said. “It gives residents a central meeting place and also establishes a strong identity for the city.”
Since the time frame of the study, Georgia has continued to grow economically. Georgia gained 76,400 jobs between April 2013 and April 2014, and the 7 percent unemployment rate, while higher than the national average of 6.3 percent, is trending downward, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More than 277,000 people moved to the state in 2012, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and per capita income increased 2.7 percent to $38,179 in 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported.
The state also has recaptured 65 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, analysts found.