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Agency predicts growing economy ahead for Forsyth County

Mike Alexander

Atlanta Regional Commission Livable Communities Director Mike Alexander addresses a crowd of local officials about Forsyth County’s economic outlook at a Feb. 15 conference at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College. 

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — While Forsyth County’s economy appears to have rebounded from the pandemic, analysts with the Atlanta Regional Commission say available housing looms as a potential problem as the population continues to climb.

Two senior members of the Atlanta Regional Commission broke down Forsyth County’s economic landscape for this year at the 2022 Forsyth Economic Outlook meeting Feb. 15 at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College.

ARC Senior Strategic Relations Director Malika Wilkins and Livable Communities Director Mike Alexander served as the event’s main speakers. Forsyth County Commissioners Todd Levent, Cindy Jones Mills and Laura Semanson attended.

The speakers discussed both the good and the bad of the county’s current economic situation. Overall, they emphasized that Forsyth County is recovering well from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, but still faces challenges such as inflation and high costs.

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In terms of job growth, Metro Atlanta has slightly outperformed national averages since the summer of 2021. Forsyth County continues to grow in population and is expected to more than double the 212,000 residents it had in 2015 in 28 years. Employment is also expected to rise at a slightly slower pace.

Top hiring industries in the county include health care and social assistance, retail, waste management and food services.

Forsyth County faces many challenges felt by communities across the nation: rising costs, inflation and a lack of housing. Alexander noted that Metro Atlanta faced an inflation rate of 7.9% between 2020 and 2021, higher than any comparable metro area and more than double Atlanta’s inflation rate from 2018-2019. Wages have grown in some areas, particularly in lower-wage service jobs, but not enough to match inflation.

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Alexander said a lack of homes being built since the 2008 recession has caused housing prices to skyrocket in the area, leaving many unable to afford homes. Wilkins, however, noted that housing in Forsyth County and the Metro Atlanta area is still far more affordable than in other metro areas like New York City.

“My simple solution, and I’ve spent a lot of time on that housing strategy, is to build more housing,” Alexander said. “Everywhere we think we absolutely need it.”

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Overall, while the county faces the challenges of the times, the speakers were optimistic about the future.

The ARC works with counties across Metro Atlanta to deal with regional issues ranging from transportation to workforce development to water resources. Forsyth County is the newest of the ARC’s 11 county partners, having joined last year after leaving the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

The Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club co-hosted the event, with Providence Bank serving as the primary sponsor.

Reach Jake Drukman at 770-847-8334. Follow him on Twitter @DrukmanJake.