JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — State Treasurer and Johns Creek resident Lynne Riley spoke in favor of a local town center achieved through public-private partnership at a Johns Creek Rotary meeting Jan. 15.
Riley serves as treasurer for Johns Creek Advantage, the economic development arm of the city, which is advocating for what Riley called “balanced growth.”
“It’s not just a new commercial building,” Riley said. “It’s not just a new residential community. It’s a balance of all those interests that make us a community of distinction.”
Riley said Johns Creek — in spite of its laudable public safety, schools and overall quality of life — is falling behind surrounding cities in a visible way. As cities like Peachtree Corners and Alpharetta develop town centers, they gain an advantage in recruiting businesses and investment.
“We need to develop that same concept here in Johns Creek,” Riley said. “We need identity. We need a town center. We need a destination where we can tangibly show that investment.”
Riley said civic, cultural and business institutions need to work together to send a cohesive message about what makes Johns Creek an attractive place to live and work.
“We have nothing to offer that compares to what other cities are putting on the table,” Riley said. “We’ve seen time and time again that if the public sector is not willing to put an investment into the community, the private sector likely won’t step up either. There has to be that meeting of minds.”
Riley said the tax revenues in Johns Creek are as good as they are because of the quality of education, because of the quality of life.
“But if we don’t build on what we have today, that growth, that talent will move to other areas where there is that synergy,” she added.
Riley noted a town center could help relieve Johns Creek’s traffic woes by creating a walkable district and could support local arts groups by merging with the Legacy Center project, which aims to create a multi-disciplinary arts center.
Johns Creek Rotary Secretary Ron Jones said the organization shared Riley’s support of the Legacy Center.
“This club has made a commitment to raise money for the Legacy Center,” Jones said. “We want to be out front of this very desperately needed investment in our community.”
Riley previously served on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, as Johns Creek’s state representative and as state revenue commissioner. Several City Council members, school principals and business leaders turned out to hear her address.
“Lynne is such a treasured member of our club,” Rotary President Kelly Stephens said.
In May 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp made Riley the first woman to lead Georgia’s Treasury Department, where she oversees the state’s investments and ensures funds are distributed to the appropriate agencies.
Speaking on her role as treasurer, Riley promoted the state’s 529 Path 2 College and STABLE programs, tax exempt investment accounts. Path 2 College funds can be used to pay for college tuition and other education expenses, and STABLE supports people with disabilities.
Those who put funds in 529 or STABLE accounts, whether parents, grandparents or philanthropic individuals, qualify for some tax deductions.
“I know everyone in Rotary is very philanthropic,” Riley said. “You may e-gift online to any account holder, derive a tax benefit and invest in our children’s futures. When we see the level of student debt in our society today, the trillions of dollars that our students have subjected themselves to repayment … I’d like to challenge us to be thinking about it in the front end.”