Annexations, economic numbers for 2019 and how a recent technology challenge could change how the state does business were among items discussed at a meeting of the Forsyth County Development Authority last week.
2019 in numbers
Robert Long, vice president of economic development for the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, shared with members of the authority some financial figures for Forsyth County and the chamber in 2019.
“At the end of the year, we had about $114 million in capital investment and about 1,100 or so jobs, so we did a good job exceeding our goals for jobs, not quite exceeding our internal goals for capital investment,” Long said.
Those projects including retention and expansion of local businesses and attraction of new businesses. Some of the types of businesses include manufacturing, technology, e-commerce, retail, health care and service/office.
While most of the projects were domestic, companies from Belgium, Switzerland and India were also included.
Long said he would have a more detailed annual report at the authority’s next meeting.
He said the chamber has been particularly busy in the New Year and had already logged nine projects.
Annexation battle continues
One of the largest sources of strife between Forsyth County and the city of Cumming in 2019 dealt with annexations of land into the city.
That debate continued at the meeting as District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper spoke against the recent spate of annexations, including a request to rezone Ingles on Buford Highway to a Cadillac dealership, which was discussed at the board of commissioners’ meeting two days earlier.
Cooper maintained that the city should pay more to the chamber due to projects coming to the city and said Forsyth County currently gives the chamber $370,000 annually compared to the city’s $45,000.
“If the chamber is going to help [developments] the city is annexing, I think the city should be pressured into also helping fund [chamber] efforts and not falling out of the general budget out of the budget of the county,” she said.
Another issue raised by Cooper was impact fees, or fees paid by developers for impacts on infrastructure. Cooper said the city has pushed back against collecting those fees for county services. Forsyth County collects impact fees for roads, parks, libraries and public safety.
“Our impact fees are down,” she said. “As more businesses go into the city, then we’re not getting the impact fees for fire. We’ve tried to work with the city and have asked them to please collect those. They’ve said what they’re going to do is collect the public safety fees, and it will go specifically to their new police precinct.”
Changing the way the state does business
In November, the chamber, the Georgia Department of Transportation and Digital Ignition, a technology incubator in south Forsyth, teamed up for “Talking Traffic Lights,” a software challenge using traffic data to help solve traffic problems that awarded a contract with GDOT.
Scott Evans, senior technology project manager with the chamber, said after the event he not only went to Washington, D.C. to tell other state departments of transportation about the process, but the results of the competition could change how the state bids out projects after a two-person team won over much larger firms.
“I had a conversation with Mike Dudgeon [policy director for Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former state representative for Forsyth’s District 25] that, in reality, what we’ve probably done is changed state procurement law as to how the state can procure emerging technologies,” he said.
Evans said state projects are often bid out to larger firms who often subcontract with smaller companies for parts of the project that involve emerging technology.
The competition featured 36 participants on nine teams from across the U.S., including a team from the Netherlands, and speakers and judges ranging from technology executives to engineers to academics to investors.
The teams used data gathered by GDOT to come up with traffic solutions.