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Local economy remains strong despite woes
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Forsyth County News

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

Those were the words of veteran real estate expert and economic forecaster Frank Norton last week as he presented his annual Native Intelligence analysis and forecast to a Forsyth County audience.

Norton’s annual forecasts have summarized what has happened, and what is going to happen, in Forsyth and surrounding North Georgia counties for more than 20 years.

Never has he had to analyze the sort of economic downturn through which local residents have lived in the past year.

Yet even with the doom and gloom of recession and stagnation still looming over our shoulders, Norton last week said there is plenty of reason for renewed optimism for Forsyth and its neighbors.

He also reminded us that as dire as things may have been locally in recent months, we still have a Forsyth County community that, from an economic sense, is the envy of many throughout the nation.

Sometimes, looking through the dark glass of our problems, we forget how bright the light really is that shines on the county.

Some of the Forsyth numbers offered in the Norton report remind us: per capita income of more than $45,000 annually, considerably higher than any of the 21 other counties included in the report; average home sale price in 2009 of nearly $260,000, and that in a very badly depressed market; issuance of more than 27,000 building permits from 2000-09.

Norton isn’t oblivious to what has happened to the area economically, but staunchly believes the current cyclical downturn will swing back toward better days, and that Forsyth County will be even more of an economic power when it does. We can, he promises, rebuild.

He did tell the local audience that the county is seriously “under-retailed” and faces the need to bring in more business and commercial growth to offset residential development. We agree.

Not only does such growth bring with it jobs, but also offsets local tax burdens that otherwise must be shouldered by residential properties. To secure long-term the sort of standard of living most expect in Forsyth, renewed and continued emphasis on commercial development is a must.

In his report, Norton notes that in a period of six months the North Georgia area went from “irrational exuberance” to “irrational pessimism.”  

Hopefully the time for pessimism is ending and, having learned some important lessons from past mistakes, we can look forward to renewed optimism throughout the region, and particularly in Forsyth County.