October 2007: Trend Radar

Thinking Big: Residents of the Atlanta area are giving birth to new communities at gold-rush speed and local officials are scrambling to make sure the new arrivals come into the world healthy and ready for positive growth. For these leaders, it’s all about planned parenthood.

When Paulding County Commission chairman Jerry Shearin began planning a new airport, he was excited by the prospects of adding such an economic development asset to his community.

“There hadn’t been one built in Georgia in more than a quarter of a century,” he says. “We had a major commitment from the FAA for $45 million and we were going to build it on about 1,000 acres.”

But an airport consultant convinced local leaders to think bigger – a whole lot bigger. What Shearin calls a “technopolis” is now planned for 10,000 acres of Paul-ding County land, complete with several new cities featuring residences, retail and offices, along with a 5,300-acre wildlife management area for hunters, hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoors lovers.

“We will pod all of the development into little cities of one to two thousand houses,” Shearin says. “But with a lot of retail and pedestrian friendly streets. This is the old village concept and it goes back to the 1800s.”

But this concept boasts a 21st century cant. “Everything is to be wired,” Shearin says. “Everything is to be technology accessible.”

The project is expected to stem the tide of commuters traveling out of the county to work each day. “This will attract more high paying jobs and executive types,” Shearin says. “And in many cases they will be able to walk to work.”

The entire 10,000 acres will fall under an airport overlay district, giving the county government strict control of all development in the project. “We will decide where the schools are going, where the hospital will be located and where the residential will go,” Shearin says.

When completed, the yet un-named project will hold fewer than 10,000 residents, but they will be the kind tax-fueled governments love. “The residents will be much more affluent,” Shearin says. “This is a high end project.”

So stunning was the public/private technopolis concept that after reviewing the plans, the U.S. Depart-ment of Commerce presented Paul-ding County its 2007 Excellence in Economic Development Award. A name for the technopolis project will be approved soon, Shearin says.

In Good Faith: When the new town of Chattahoochee Hill Country was created in Fulton County last June, with 83 percent of voters approving, a few details remained to be ironed out. Finding a city hall, electing a mayor and council and providing sewer, water, garbage pickup and all the services required of a municipality must be addressed before the city becomes a legal entity Dec. 1.

Delivering city services proved to be the least of the problems. Acting on a good faith handshake – city elections will be held this month – Chattahoochee Hill Country organizers hired CH2M OMI, a Denver-based private company, to deliver such services.

“We followed in the footsteps of Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek,” says Laurie Searle, a member of Chattahoochee Hill’s organizing committee, referring to three other new Fulton County towns that hired CH2. “CH2 is taking a big risk doing this,” Searle says. “But I think they see a really big potential to do something unique.

CH2 is taking the risk with no promise of being hired by the new city officials, who take office next month.

Page Turner: Don Beaver admits he’s no Rupert Murdoch, but says he knows a good read when he sees it. “The whole idea is to be informative and entertaining,” says Beaver, COO and vice president of the Economic Development Divi-sion of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.

He’s referring to Cobb In Focus, the chamber’s magazine, which won the Grand Award for Communica-tions Excellence from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives in August.

The magazine is published six times a year and reaches 22,000 businesses in Cobb County.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features