Using Gwinnett County’s bicentennial and its history as a backdrop, county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash called on the community to use the same spirit that got the county to where it is today to propel it into the future during a speech Wednesday.
Nash used the bicentennial to introduce Gwinnett’s vision during her State of the County address at the Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth. She juxtaposed where the county was when it was founded in 1818 against where it is today, while also highlighting moments from the last 200 years where the county took leaps forward.
That pioneering spirit has to continue, Nash said.
Read the full State of the County Address as delivered on Feb. 14, 2018 by Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.
“As we approach Gwinnett’s third century, the pioneering spirit is still important,” Nash said. “We face challenges and decisions that represent opportunities for the future, and we’re exploring new territory in diversity and inclusiveness. To continue to thrive, we must make the most of all our assets.”
Nash’s speech focused on two areas where the county is focusing its efforts, economic development and transportation. It highlighted projects underway and efforts that will be coming up in the future.
Nash said expanding transit will be the next big decision facing Gwinnett County, with a transit development plan currently underway. The county’s Connect Gwinnett effort is intended to identify transit improvement and expansion options while also developing a plan to put those expansion efforts in motion.
The chairman participated in a state transit development committee that looked at transit options for the region, resulting in legislation unveiled earlier this week by state Rep. Kevin Tanner. Transit legislation is also pending in the state Senate.
“Striking the right balance between regional oversight and local control is difficult, and there are obviously hurdles to overcome,” Nash said. “However, I believe we have a window of opportunity that should not be squandered. I encourage you to contact your legislators about this important issue.”
Having an economy that is robust to keeping the community healthy, which is what job creation and economic opportunities are key focuses for the county government, she said.
On the economic development front, Nash pointed to efforts to improve the Gwinnett Place, Jimmy Carter boulevard and Highway 78 areas. Two projects she highlighted were the Revel development at the Infinite Energy Center, whose detailed plans will be unveiled later this month, and the redevelopment of the former Olympic tennis center site.
“The demolition of the former Olympic Tennis venue is in the final stages, so the County will soon actively seek a private-sector partner to redevelop the site,” Nash said. “What a great location at an important entry to Gwinnett — and with a beautiful view of Stone Mountain.”
Economic growth since the Great Recession was highlighted as well. The county currently has about 320,000 private sector jobs, up from about 256,000 eight years ago. When public sector jobs are added into the figures, the current total rises to 345,000 jobs.
The creation of nearly 21,000 new jobs, the expansion of 233 businesses and an investment of $1.5 billion in capital investment has been influenced by the work of Partnership Gwinnett, Nash said.
“And PG’s wins continue, as we heard just last week the announcement of OFS’s plan to expand in Gwinnett, adding jobs and significant investment,” she said.
The county is not relying solely on Partnership Gwinnett to do all of the economic development work though. Over the last couple of years, it has been adding economic development staff to help, particularly in the areas of existing and small businesses.
The county is also launching a Coffee and Conversation program this year as well to increase communication with the business community.
A Small Business Resource Center is also being created to support local entrepreneurs as the county revamps regulations and processes related to businesses. Those regulations and processes will also balance business needs with residents needs.
We’re experimenting with overlay districts, mixed use zoning provisions, and infrastructure support aimed at encouraging revitalization of areas that are ripe for change.
Nash said the county is looking at different transit projects in areas, such as improving connectivity, transit options and freight movement in the Jimmy Carter Boulevard area, and building a major hub for an expanded county transit system at Gwinnett Place Mall. The county is also trying to find a way to connect McDaniel Farm Park with the transit system.
“We’ve teamed with state DOT, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners to fund intersection improvements for Jimmy Carter Boulevard at Buford Highway,” Nash said.
Nash said the county needs to find ways to make the most of its transportation network while also expanding the networks capacity to handle traffic.
“Transportation, another basic building block for a successful community, has always played a major role in Gwinnett’s economy,” Nash said. “The County just completed its comprehensive transportation plan to guide spending for the next two decades.”
Nash said the county will begin installing a smart corridor project on the 20 miles of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard that is in Gwinnett in 2019.
This types of technology is being pioneered by companies such as Suwanee-based Applied Information, and allows residents to use apps on their phones to find out how long they have until a traffic light changes, when they are approaching a work zone or when an emergency vehicle is approaching, and what direction it is coming from.
Assistant Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said the company has not yet hired a company to install the work, but he estimated it could take about six months to install.