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Prosperity keeps pace
Forbes lauds county for health care, technology
Northside Forsyth 4 es
Dianne Carroll and Bonnie Cameron look through records at a nurse station Tuesday afternoon at the local hospital. - photo by Emily Saunders
Forsyth County appears to have a permanent place in Forbes Magazine.

The most recent mention is as one of America’s richest 25 counties.  

At 20th on the list, Forsyth is the only county in the state and one of just two in the Southeast to garner a mention.

“When you’re among the top 25, you’re specific ranking is far less important than being among that very top, elite group,” said James McCoy,
president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

In 2008, Forbes named Forsyth the 13th richest county in the country. That same year, the publication ranked Forsyth second on its “best places to get ahead” list.

The most recent Forbes list was based on median household incomes for 2008. Forsyth’s was nearly $87,000.

Loudoun County, Va., which topped the list, had a median household income of more than $110,600. Suffolk County, N.Y., placed 25th, with about $84,800.

“Those are communities we have benchmarked ourselves with and against for a long time,” McCoy said. “We are in a community that has some strengths and a very well-educated population and folks that are interested in making a great life for themselves.”

The Forbes list said Forsyth and Tennessee’s Williamson County both “have big-city growth industries to thank for their prosperity.”

According to Forbes, median incomes are highest in counties that are outside big cities and driven by growth industries such as health care and technology.

That assessment is accurate in Forsyth, McCoy said.

“These are industries that have proven that even despite huge downturns in the economy, that there is some stability and strength,” he said.

Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital-Forsyth administrator, has watched the hospital continue to grow, while other industries have struggled.

In the past few years, the hospital has added a women’s center, upgraded and expanded its cardiac care facility and added floors to its surgical center.

“Each time we add on additional services or modify our services, we’re able to give other opportunities, either for hiring or attracting new and different businesses to support that,” Jackson said. “It kind of goes back to that rising tide theory. As the water rises, all the ships come up.

“As we continue to improve and add services here, it gives the opportunity for that ripple effect to continue to happen.”

Jackson said hiring at the hospital leads to increased spending in the county, as many of Northside’s employees work locally.

The hospital also fuels growth in other branches of the health care industry, like physician offices, pharmacies, long-term care facilities and durable medical equipment sales.

And it also contributes to the median household income through the pay scale of its employees.

“Typically, the health care wage earner is at a significant enough rate to have a fairly strong standard of living,” Jackson said. “Businesses that come to our community looking for ... a good school system, we help to round out the picture by having a good health care infrastructure.
“It rounds out the picture of our quality of life.”

Long before the Forbes survey was conducted, Forsyth County’s government, the local development authority and the chamber decided to focus on recruiting technology and health care-related industries to the area.

The Forbes ranking supports that effort, as well as the local growth in those industries.

“If you look at the entire Ga. 400 corridor, the industries that are along that corridor by and large are still doing well, and it’s one of the many things that have helped us stay in a good position,” McCoy said.

“It speaks to the education levels and the opportunities that exist here and it speaks to the quality of the community and our overall well-being.”