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Forsyth faring better than most
‘Buying local’ key to recovery
Ethan Underwood looks over the new Native Intelligence report. - photo by Jennifer Sami
A local real estate expert said Forsyth is recovering from the economic downturn “first, fastest and strongest” of counties in the metro Atlanta area.

Frank Norton Jr. addressed a joint meeting Tuesday morning of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth.

Norton, president of the Gainesville-based Norton Agency real estate and insurance firm, said property in Forsyth is selling faster. In addition, traditional business is returning to the county and confidence is being restored.

“You may not feel [that process] here, but I see the numbers for all of the other surrounding counties and for all of northeast Georgia, if not the entire state or the country,” he said.

“We have something very, very unique here. We have a very dynamic, growing, attractive community.”

Norton is author of Native Intelligence, an annual economic forecast. Though he had read previous reports, Tuesday was the first time State Farm insurance employee Carmelo Alvarez heard Norton speak.

“I was very impressed,” he said.

“It was very well done and he gave a tremendous amount of information.

“I think what was most useful is that it was centered in general. Obviously, he comes from the real estate angle. But he gives it in such a way that if you’re in retail or you sell cars that you can see and understand what he’s doing.”

During his presentation, which drew about 200 local business people and community members, Norton offered some results from the agency’s recent survey polling nearly 1,000 newsletter subscribers.

The results, he said, were positive.

Fewer than 20 percent thought north Georgia performed worse than the nation in the current economy, nearly 50 percent thought lasting business recovery will happen in 2011 and about 55 percent thought business would be stronger in 2010 than last year.

While more than half of those surveyed said they haven’t altered their daily routine, more than 75 percent have permanently changed their spending habits.

“Going forward, we are going to be much more conservative,” Norton said. “We are going to think about all of those things, those crazy things we spent money on in 2004, 5 and 6.

“We’re going to think twice about doing it again. Northeast Georgia has permanently changed its consumer patterns ... we’re going to have to love the low end.”

Bargain shopping and conservative buying have lured many Forsyth residents to the North Georgia Premium Outlets near Dawsonville. While it’s great for Dawson County, Norton said, it pulls from Forsyth County’s potential taxes, which help fund schools, parks and other county services.

“You are under-retailed as a community, in my opinion, by 50 percent,” he said. “We must get more businesses here and focus the business and focus the residents to live, work and shop here.

“Buying local is going to drive this market, drive your tax recovery, drive your infrastructure ... drive each of your own individual businesses.”

Patti McTier with Royal Bank of Canada is a Norton follower after having seen his presentation for several years. His information, she said, provides peace of mind to her customers.

“We have a lot of people on the verge of starting businesses, and to be able to give them accurate information and to be able to let them look through material like this is very beneficial,” she said. “[Norton] is amazing. That’s why there are so many people who turn up to hear him speak.”