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Growth focus of annual address
Officials reflect on positive year

FORSYTH COUNTY — Growth — both residential and retail — and the accompanying need for new schools remain at the forefront of Forsyth County’s priorities.

During the annual State of the County Address, school and government officials touched on the issue, while also reviewing the past year and goals for the future.

Addressing the gathering at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center, County Commission Chairman Pete Amos highlighted Forsyth’s growth, using the courthouse as an example.

When the existing structure was built in 1976, the county boasted a population of about 24,000. Today, nearly 195,000 call Forsyth home.

And the county, he said, is working to meet the demands of its residents, including providing voter-approved projects like the new jail and courthouse that are being built in downtown Cumming, park additions and green space.

Amos highlighted the new Post Road Library, water and infrastructure improvements, all of which have been accomplished while maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating and low tax rate.

In 2013, 600 new jobs were added to Forsyth’s business base, with more than $58 million in capital investment.

“But five months into this year, we’ve surpassed that,” Amos said. “We’ve got eight new development projects going on with an economic impact of $72 million.

“Companies want to invest in our county and they’re a big part of the puzzle of Forsyth County. Their investments translate into tangible results — jobs, jobs, jobs and money for the county.”

But perhaps equally as important is what those companies contribute to the community’s youth, said Forsyth County Board of Education Chairwoman Darla Light.

“Our schools would not be half what they are without you and your businesses. These businesses come in and they partner with our schools and they just do all kinds of wonderful things,” Light said. “I don’t know where Forsyth County Schools would be without our business partners.”

In addition to those partnerships, Light talked about the school system’s successes. She noted it ranks among the state’s highest for graduation rate, SAT and CRCT scores, work force development programs and use of technology, which she said “really gives a lot of individualized learning.”

Light also touched on the May 20 bond referendum for the school system, asking for support so the district “can continue to be one of the best.”

She noted the “new middle and high school, tens of millions of dollars in improvements to existing campuses, technology upgrades and transportation improvements the bond would help fund.”

“We cannot fail our kids by not passing this bond because it’s the kids in school today that will suffer,” she said.

The annual address was sponsored by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Quality Growth, a nonprofit trade organization that, according to its website, promotes “balanced and responsible growth in the metro Atlanta region and state.”

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt did not participate in the address, as he has in past years, because city leaders plan to hold a separate event this fall.