“We are optimistic because we have every reason to be,” said Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash during the annual State of the County address to community and business leaders on Thursday.
The event was held at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, hosted by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Quality Growth.
“Like most other governments, businesses and households in the United States, your county government has spent the last several years reacting to the Great Recession,” she said. “But in 2014, we’re shifting our primary focus to the future to ensure that success will always live here.”
While she acknowledges the County may not experience rapid growth anytime soon, the tax digest is expected to grow this year for the first time since 2008. Forecasts show a steady recovery over the next several years to allow for more long-range planning and implementation.
Nash briefly highlighted three key accomplishments from 2013 that have positioned Gwinnett for success.
First, she praised the commissioners currently serving on the Board for their different perspectives saying they “make us stronger as a group and lead to better decisions for Gwinnett County.”
Another accomplishment included the priorities set by the Board in May 2013 to foster a culture of integrity and positive leadership and engage the community, address workforce retention and development, facilitate economic development, encourage revitalization, ensure long-term water supply and maintain and improve infrastructure.
She said these priorities serve as “guiding principles as we move forward.”
Finally, Nash praised the passage of the SPLOST referendum in November, thanking the voters for saying yes to funding vital infrastructure projects for Gwinnett cities and the County.
Turning attention to the future, Nash reminded the audience that the County’s bicentennial is coming in December 2018. She used this milestone to illustrate the importance of planning Gwinnett’s third century.
“I believe that our plans should be aimed at Gwinnett setting the standard for a thriving community, not just being a mediocre also-ran,” she said. “It’s going to take all of us – not just those of us in this room, but all of Gwinnett’s individuals and communities – working together to make this a reality.”
To make Gwinnett a standard bearer for thriving communities, Nash said that the residents must have the opportunity to earn a good living. She congratulated the efforts of Partnership Gwinnett for its “leadership in economic development activities,” which has led to job creation, while also calling for greater vigor to be brought to economic development efforts and to “strengthen our focus on good paying jobs within industries that are likely to be here over the long run.”
Citing the need for a diverse economic structure in which small businesses as well as large companies can thrive, Nash announced the formation of a task force of business owners who will advise county government on ways help businesses be successful in Gwinnett.
“Among other things, the group will take a look at our County regulations and processes that affect businesses,” said Nash. “We can’t ignore the responsibilities we have under law, but we can work to minimize constraints and costs.”
Another initiative announced during the speech is aimed at expanding community outreach and bringing the entire community together.
“Gwinnett is arguably the most diverse county in the southeastern U.S.,” said Nash. “Since this diversification has happened so quickly, we are still figuring out how to work across groups and to educate all our residents about our community.” She said funds have been included in this year’s budget for public outreach to engage the county’s diverse communities.
Nash said, “I am unabashedly a fan of Gwinnett County and believe that anything can be accomplished here. We pull together for the good of Gwinnett, and members of the community constantly amaze me with their willingness to commit time and energy to make Gwinnett a better place.”
She said that the enthusiastic participation from residents across the county will ensure that Gwinnett is successful in its next 100 years.
Video of the entire speech is available on demand at www.tvgwinnett.com and it will air frequently on the county’s government access cable channel beginning at 8 p.m. Friday.Source: Gwinnett County Press Release dated Jan. 16, 2014.