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Leaders hail state of affairs
Challenges plenty, but so are positives
State of community
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt addresses the crowd during the State of the Community on Thursday. - photo by Jennifer Sami


Despite the challenges they face, the local school system and two governments made strides in 2010.

Representatives of all three spoke Thursday during the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Community Address, sponsored by the Council for Quality Growth.

“I think the purpose of this event was really to help the leadership of the city, county and the schools talk about their most important accomplishments at one time,” said James McCoy, chamber president and CEO.

“Not that we are free of challenges, we certainly have plenty ... but it’s about looking at what many places consider to be almost insurmountable challenges, and how we’ve turned them into real opportunities.”

Forsyth County Commission Chairman Brian Tam showed a video highlighting road and recreation improvements, including the opening of Fowler Park, as well as other projects.

Tam noted how the chamber and development authority handled eight economic development projects totaling more than $68 million in new capital investment and more than 480 jobs.

During the first quarter of 2011, the county is projected to see $10.8 million in new capital investments and more than 500 jobs.

He told attendees that the county is a “great place to do business,” and adding that “it’s paramount for us to both prepare the county for future growth, while preserving our county from future growth.”

The community and its leadership are doing just that, said John Kieffer, chamber chairman.

“I’m excited to see a level of cooperation in this room we haven’t always seen,” he said. “It’s great to see a community where all the horsepower is working in the same direction to try to accomplish common goals.”

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt shared a slideshow and covered a list of projects coming soon to Pilgrim Mill Road, including contracts for a campus of North Georgia College & State University, construction on which could begin later this year, and a $24 million National Guard Armory.

The area will also house a drivers’ services center, which will offer commercial and motorcycle licenses.

But first up for the city is the $15 million aquatic center, featuring a 50-meter competition pool, among other amenities.

“This is something the community as well will be proud of,” said Gravitt, noting that the center likely will open in early June.

There is no shortage of ideas and programs offered by the Forsyth County school system.

Board of Education Chairman Tom Cleveland touched on several, including iAchieve Virtual Academy, the SAT 2400 challenge and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, program.

He also talked about the Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life, or PROPEL, program to improve graduation rates.               

“I’m here to tell you we’re up over 90 percent right now in graduation rate,” he said. “While I can stand here and try to be proud of that ... our goal is 100 percent.”

While the county’s growth has slowed, it hasn’t stopped, Cleveland said. Each year, the system is adding about 1,700 students, or the equivalent of a new high school.

“People are moving to Forsyth County,” he said. “They find it is a great place to live, work, play and go to school.”