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The Future of Forsyth: Bold predictions

 
POSTED: August 23, 2016 3:14 p.m.

We know the county is growing. We know change is coming. What we don't know is what that change will look like. But that doesn't mean we can't make some bold predictions.

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The future of Forsyth County is growth, and the future is imminent.

On any given day growth transpires in ways visible to both area natives and passersby along the Ga. 400 corridor.

It presents itself in the form of four new schools being erected in the next three years. In the form of orange cones and red-clay dirt bulldozed on the side of the road. Creating more. Building upward.

It can be seen in the exponential population boom diversifying the fastest-growing county in the state and the 11th in the nation.
It’s paving the road for a change in landscape in how we live, how we get there and who we are.

Some say the unprecedented growth is unbridled. Exponential. Overbearing.

Some welcome it. They cite the economy. The prosperity. The quality of life.

One thing is for sure. Growth is imminent.

What may not be as certain is what that will mean down the road (other than more roads). So we’re going to make some bold predictions. Fact-based predictions using history and data-driven projections without adjusting for the unknown that will inevitably shift the script to a new story. But predictions nonetheless.

The future is imminent. The future of Forsyth County is growth.

COMMUNITY

Before we can try to guess what amenities will be in Forsyth County in the future – let’s say 2040 – we have to look at who we will be.

The population is not only growing at the speed of the Road Runner. It’s changing. Diversifying. Gaining youth. Growing older.

It is projected that 8 million people will be living in the 20-county Atlanta region by 2040 holding 4 million jobs, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission, an addition of 2.5 million people. Forsyth’s population is expected to double in that time to 430,301 – a 108.2 percent change. If those projections come to pass, Forsyth will continue to grow faster than any other county in Georgia.

The share of those residents who are 65 and older is expected to increase from about 11 to about 18 percent, and the percentage of millennials should increase slightly. Meanwhile, that gap will be filled by a decrease in those aged 35-64 from 42.7 percent to 38.35 percent.

“They don’t want to drive as much, so that puts a different type of strain on resources,” said Jim Jaquish, a spokesman for the ARC. “So there will have to be a bigger move for more public transport and things like Uber and taxis.”

The future of Forsyth County is new-age diversity.

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BOLD PREDICTION: Whether it is MARTA, buses or the next big-thing in Uber-type companies, public transport will reach Forsyth, in line with Ga. 400 having been expanded yet again.

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The county is becoming more racially diverse, too, with the Hispanic population projected to increase from 10.25 to 15.52 percent of the makeup.

“The Atlanta region will remain a desirable place to live, thanks to our low cost of living and a strong economy that continues to create jobs,” said Mike Alexander, director of the ARC’s Center for Livable Communities. “We’ll see growth in existing suburban areas as well as the region’s core, as more people choose to live near jobs or transit.”

The future of Forsyth County is niched.

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BOLD PREDICTION: In the place of municipalities, live-work-play character areas will retain residents, who are largely seniors or young adults, in their own neighborhoods. Constantly increasing traffic woes will lead to less communing outside of work, creating tight-knit communities resembling neighborhood-sized cities.

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HEALTHCARE

Northside Hospital-Forsyth may be the cornerstone of healthcare in Forsyth, but there are myriad options for residents to get better soon. So many, in fact, that healthcare options are one of the reasons Forsyth County has been named the healthiest county in Georgia for the fourth year in a row.

The 852-bed nonprofit healthcare provider is in talks to solidify a merger with Gwinnett Medical Center to create a single system across metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

The Northside-Gwinnett Medical system would have about 1,400 beds, more than 16,000 employees and about 3,500 physicians on staff. Just the most recent change in an ever-morphing campus.

A three-floor expansion will open this fall, bringing the Forsyth location to about 330 beds.

“We started out in 2002 with 41 beds. There’s been a significant amount of growth in a relatively [short] amount of time in the hospital world,” said Lynn Jackson, administrator of Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

Properties were recently also annexed from the city of Cumming to continue building.

“We’ll start a new medical office building. This one will be probably about 130,000 square feet. We’re planning for an additional building just after that and probably another one following the campus master plan.”

The future of Forsyth County is health.

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BOLD PREDICTION: The merger will put Forsyth on the map as a major healthcare nucleus. If the population is going to double, why not assume the same for the hospital?

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EDUCATION

It’s hard to imagine the school system constructing 37 more school campuses by 2040, which is what may need to happen to educate a doubled population of children. The ARC projected that 31.17 percent of the population in 2040 to be made up of Generation AA, who are not even born yet.

School system administration and school board members have been adamant in finding new ways to teach students without being afraid of going against the grain or trying something new. With the district’s Strategic Waivers School System contract, they can do just that. More flexibility in state standards in exchange for strict accountability for success has worked for schools in Forsyth County so far – it earned the highest CCRPI score in Georgia and students scored among the highest this year on Georgia Milestones.

But already breaking 46,000 students enrolled in a public school, how will education change in the coming years to accommodate for an ever-increasing number of learners?

The future of education in Forsyth County is choices.

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BOLD PREDICTION: Virtual schools will explode in popularity, as will dual enrollment and blended learning-type programs that will turn students over quicker. East Forsyth High School may even finally be built.

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