Also during the meeting, the Forsyth County Development Authority:
• Set its meeting times for the remainder of 2011 at 9 a.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Forsyth County Administrative Building, with the Lanier Technical College Conference Center serving as a backup location.
• Elected officers for 2011. Bobby Thomas will continue in his role as chairman and Tim Perry will remain treasurer. Joann Tolleson stepped down as vice chair, which David Seago will take over.
-- Crystal Ledford
Promoting the county better will be a top priority for the Forsyth County Development Authority in 2011.
"I think we're in a position to attract more companies, especially international companies," said Bobby Thomas, authority chairman. "We need to really work on that this coming year."
His remarks came during a recent meeting in which Randall Toussiant with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce presented an economic development plan for 2011.
Toussiant said the top business recruitment priorities should include working to streamline the county's incentives for new companies and creating better marketing materials that focus on the area's high quality of life.
To meet the first goal, he suggested the authority "create an inventory of existing incentives," such as current tax abatements, as well as less obvious perks.
"One of the most sought-after incentives for our international businesses is some sort of English program," Toussaint said. "In Forsyth, we have a free English program at Lanier [Technical College] and our library recently began offering a free program similar to Rosetta Stone.
"That's really huge for many of these companies."
Citing efforts in nearby Alpharetta and Fulton County, Toussaint said some of the county's current tax abatements may need to be modified to make it more competitive.
Thomas asked if county commissioners, who would have to give final approval for tax incentives, might be open to re-evaluating the structure.
Based on some preliminary talks, Toussiant said commissioners seemed receptive as long as any move "doesn't cast too wide a net."
Another recruitment priority in 2011, Toussaint said, will be better marketing of the county.
"We've got to update our marketing materials to reflect our great community," he said. "We're the sixth-fastest growing county in the nation and last year we were named one of the 100 best communities for young people."
Thomas suggested also focusing on the county's high median household income, which last year was about $101,000.
"Companies will be more inclined to come to an affluent community than a depressed one," he said.
Toussaint said the county also has space to offer businesses.
"We need to develop a portfolio of all the existing properties we have," he said. "Most people probably don't know, but we have more class A, turnkey-ready office spaces than Gwinnett County."
Many of the new businesses coming to Forsyth are from overseas, particularly Germany.
Toussiant said 2011 will likely be a year of intense international recruiting efforts.
He recommended the authority attend two trade shows in Germany: MEDICA 2011, focusing on the medical device industry; and the GAE Conference, dealing primarily with energy and trade businesses.
At Thomas' suggestion, the authority held off on approving its 2011 budget until next month, when Toussaint can present specific costs associated with the plan.