Situated in the scenic foothills of northern Georgia among miles of largely unspoiled Lake Lanier shoreline, Forsyth County’s rapid population growth, highly rated schools, and affluence has made it a prime location for investment within the fast-growing and dynamic Atlanta metro area. However, the county’s many assets and successes masked important barriers to its future competitiveness, including an imbalance between commercial and residential tax revenues, a shortage of housing options, inadequate transportation alternatives, a lack of amenities, and limited economic development resources and incentives. To help ensure its future economic well-being and resiliency, county leaders began asking what type of growth was most desirable and how prosperity could be sustained and expanded in the long term.
The Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners and the Development Authority of Forsyth County, engaged TIP to build on the region’s success and solidify its future economic outlook through a county-wide economic development strategic plan. The first step in the TIP planning process established a common understanding of the county’s strengths and challenges. This Discovery phase included valuable roundtable discussions and interviews with community and business leaders. Additionally, TIP conducted a target industry analysis and a comparison of local incentives to inform the strategies. The resulting plan had three goals: identity and marketing, business development, and real estate and placemaking. An important aim of the work was to challenge the partners with bold ideas inspired by national best practices. As part of the real estate and placemaking goal, the team identified five long-term, potentially transformative, “catalyst projects.” Armed with a guiding framework, concrete real estate development opportunities, organizational recommendations, and a detailed action plan, the Chamber was well positioned to propel Forsyth County into a new, more advanced stage of economic development.