ARC

Forsyth County commissioners joined members from the Cumming City Council Jan. 31 to hear a presentation from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

 FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — As Forsyth County’s population continues to surge, local officials are wrestling over whether to identify with the urban Atlanta region or remain a part of the rural community of North Georgia.

Whatever they decide, it could mean millions of dollars in aid and resources.

At a joint meeting Jan. 31, the Forsyth County Commission and the Cumming City Council heard a pitch from the Atlanta Regional Commission to join other metro counties under its umbrella. The ARC is a regional agency representing 10 core metro counties in planning, resources and advocacy with state and federal agencies. 

Its member counties include Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, and the city of Atlanta.

Currently, Forsyth and Cumming are members of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, which represents 13 counties farther north of Atlanta. Its membership includes Banks, Dawson, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White counties.

Like the ARC, the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission promotes and guides development of human, natural, physical, social and economic resources in the northern Georgia region. 

The GMRC works with its member counties and cities to formulate goals and strategies for growth and development. 

Now, local officials are weighing the benefits of each organization. 

The GMRC focuses on planning, economic development, workforce development, information services, finance and administration.

The ARC concentrates on infrastructure, the arts, transportation, healthy communities, water resources, aging adults, workforce training and first responders.

Doug Hooker, ARC executive director, said Forsyth County already participates in some projects with the ARC.

“We have had the fortune of being a larger staff and portfolio,” he said. “We are fairly unique in the nation. Very few of our peers have the breadth of things we have in terms of community and support. We are often looked to as a leader in a lot of respects. But we never assume that because we are big, that we are the best. We learn from everybody.”

While there may be a perception that the ARC caters more to the bigger counties, Hooker said that is not true.

“We did a study that found suburban counties tend to get a lot more of our time and resources,” he said. “Because you’re smaller, you won’t get overlooked. If anything, we’d have more intention to be more supportive of our smaller communities. We want to help them meet their aspirations and challenges.”

Cumming councilmembers said they do not typically need help from the GMRC, but when they have used them, it has always been a positive experience.

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