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Young professional & Fayette visioning

Jamie Knox's picture

Throughout the Fayette Visioning process that launched in December 2013, there have been frequent references of the importance to attract and retain young professionals living and working in Fayette County. I have had a front row seat for the Fayette Visioning Initiative and have heard open and honest perspectives from both “seasoned” and young professionals.

After spending my early childhood in south Florida, I moved to Fayette County in 2001. I was a graduate of the inaugural class of Whitewater High School in 2007 and then moved to Milledgeville to attend Georgia State College & University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2011 and a Masters in Public Administration in 2012.

After college, while most of my friends set their sights on Atlanta to live and work, I turned my attention back to Fayette County for two reasons: To be near family and to be a part of the community in which I grew up.

Even with a master’s degree in my pocket and two very compelling reasons to move “home,” this move would not have happened had it not been for the meaningful internship opportunity I was given with the Fayette Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout that experience I learned how important it is for Fayette County companies to be intentional about recruiting young professionals — either still in college or new graduates — if we desire these students to choose Fayette when they are deciding where to call home.

I’d like to see more businesses offer internships and jobs that provide meaningful work experience, where educated young professionals can grow and develop their skills, as my internship with the Chamber did and as my job does now.

Ironically, even though I am well educated and employed with a great job, I am truly unable to afford to live in Fayette County. The lack of affordable housing options force me, and young professionals like me, to live either in the few high-rent apartment complexes or to look for lower cost housing in neighboring Coweta County.

Nearby Senoia and Sharpsburg offer reasonable housing prices with easy access to Fayette. Young families are forgoing Fayette’s high quality school system in favor of the more reasonably priced homes in Coweta with a school system that is increasingly becoming more competitive with Fayette. And consequently, their tax dollars are staying in Coweta County.

There is great discussion about the type of community that would lure young professionals — restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping. Live. Work. Play. But I assure you that this is not only what will draw those from my generation.

We are looking for a residential and business community where we can value its history, engage, give back, move forward and improve, invest our resources, develop our job skills, raise a family, be mentored and valued. Invest. Contribute. Thrive.

And it is crucial for Fayette County and its leaders to start recruiting and investing in young people early. Because once we start our families the desire to settle is so strong, we will move to the place where we can afford to live and can give us important pieces of community that we value. It is there we will settle.

We are not begging Fayette County to hand us everything we want on a silver platter — we have a strong desire to give back to our community. But I am concerned that without better options, young professionals (Fayette’s sons, daughters and grandchildren) will quietly move and make a life elsewhere.

I see great possibility in Fayette County for me, my colleagues and friends, and my future family. I appreciate this visioning effort that has been so inclusive of the voices of my generation. I want to work with current leaders to create a positive impact on our community that will benefit me and those who come behind me. I know that together we can come up with solutions that will benefit us all.

If there is one thing I know from my work at the Chamber, it is that when young professionals and the “seasoned professionals” of Fayette County come together, powerful things happen. Please join me and make your ideas and suggestions a part of the visioning effort by engaging at

[Jamie L. Knox is events coordinator for the Fayette Chamber of Commerce in Fayetteville, Ga.]


First let me state that your point that Fayette County needs to continue working hard recruiting good, diverse businesses that train and mentor young professionals like yourself is the first step in community development.

You are also correct that Coweta, at the moment, does offer more affordable housing and whose public school system is improving. But now, use that Masters in Public Administration, and ask yourself, is their tax structure sustainable as more people move in and additional services required? That $150k house on a postage stamp developer lot might be affordable for a two income young married couple with no kids, but when you have kids, that house will feel small. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing either. Most young people need to start somewhere and struggle a bit. It builds character.

But first things first. Bring in good businesses that hire young energetic professionals and provide opportunities. While doing this, plan for the various housing that will be needed. I think we learned a valuable lesson about building first and they will come when we sold Rivers at a steep discount.

You seem like a good man who is getting a good start at your first real job. But understand that you must work hard and pay your dues. The economy is still rough and we need people like you to learn and assist in bringing in more business in a very competitive time. One doesn't start at the top making big money when they have limited experiences.

You say your not asking for a silver platter, but in fact you are. There are not many that graduate college and can afford to put a down payment on a home in the same community they grew up in. Most young professionals work hard, begin sharing an apt or small starter homes and work their way up to places like FC. I doubt many of your fellow (recent) Masters classmates are able to afford housing next to their parents either.

While we do need affordable housing, and I'm glad it's on the agenda of the Vision group, I'm not sure how anyone can control what that value should be or how the government can dictate a return of investment a developer can make without simply building cheap apartments. In my opinion, at the moment, is to invest in diverse business opportunities, then housing.

Keep working hard and earn your way into the home of your dreams.

Ever think that Jamie just might NOT be a man?

My apologies to the young lady.

Hi Jaimie:

First thanks for adding your voice to this community. But I have to ask some questions to better understand your point. When you argue that Fayette needs affordable housing, what exactly do you mean? For purpose of my question I will take that to mean rent/ housing payments low enough that people with a household income of $60,000 or below can afford with enough left over to live in some comfort.
You have stated and, basic research confirms, rents in the apartments in PTC are over $1,000 a month and housing in many areas of Fayette County are north of $200k. You have appropriately noted that the surrounding areas are less expensive and are drawing younger people. I started out like you unable to afford a decent place of my own in the town I grew up in despite being a CPA with a great job with the Big 6 working in the World Trade Center. As you can imagine in Northern NJ and NYC the rent was too damn high. So I moved home with mom and dad, saved my money and paid off my student loans and did not move out until three years later when I got married. Didn’t move to another county to find affordable housing to start a family, my choice was to move to a different state.

When I moved to GA lived off Roswell Road close enough to enjoy the lifestyle amenities younger people prefer. My first home was not in Fayette County but Clayton, a brand new house at River’s Edge golf course. As our income grew, we were able to afford to move to PTC, 10 years ago.

The concept of affordable housing sounds great and is easy to agree with in a vague survey. If the Chamber added information around the how to get to affordable housing, there may be less support. High level I see a few ways to get there.
A – Altruism, developers who support the plan choose to make less money per unit or acre to build units of the same quality and density. I doubt this one somewhat.

B – Density the cities/ county allow developers much more density then previously allowed. Now that will be a fun NIMBY conversation, but as I usually focus on school issues I will ask the big one. How do you collect enough money from the denser units to pay for the additional children (assumed with younger families) in our right sized schools?

C- Subsidy. This takes many forms from Section 8 vouchers which pay / part or all of rent, use Section 9 to offset development/ operation costs for developers/operators or directly pay operational costs. These are both federal dollars that come with federal rules. The latter usually last 20 years then it is local money.

I think the concept of affordable housing is worth discussing and well intentioned. However, I think the Chamber and Mr. Ross would serve the conversation better by telling us what flavor of affordable housing we are discussing. It’s like asking if people would prefer dessert before dinner. I think that will survey well. But as we really discuss the implementation and the consequences of such a plan, the desired outcome may be different.

Take Care

Most of us didn't come out of school buying a house. We lived with parents, shared apartments, ect.. until we proved ourselves to our bosses that we we worth the money.

Maybe Jamie needs to go back to her COC boss and explain that they aren't paying her as much as she thinks she's worth with a masters degree and demand a raise. The boss can then raise the dues for the COC members to supplement her salary requirements so she can afford a house, car payments and beer money in FC.

Bob needs to think more about the topics before he asks his plants to write essays detailing the Vision objectives. All of his plants crow about inclusion, but all seem to have ins to the group. How about an open house so all the unwashed can have a say?

Robert W. Morgan's picture

You are correct on the 3 ways to get affordable housing - the 4th being what we all did - live where you can afford the rent or take in a roommate. Fayette County seems an unlikely place to embrace any of the 3 ideas, although Twiggs, Cobblestone, Ridgefield and Fairfax all have resales and rentals that could be considered affordable.

Live free or die!

My point was more to get our friend Jamie to present how she would do it. Her editorial was a take on a similar letter to the editor called "I am Williamson County" forwarded across Facebook by some county leaders. In this letter a 23 YO (looked like journalist) again opining the rent was too damn high for her to live in the manner she wanted and where she wanted ( Downtown so she could see the Noel on the Starbuck's ). I agree there are certain spots you can afford especially if you get a roommate. However I do not see Miss Jamie previewing real estate in Wynnmeade anytime soon. Affordable and desirable may not be the same until you build some capital.

My point is simple, the Fayette Visioning people are clear on their agenda yet they fail to share with us what they plan but try to gain legitimacy through push survey with vague hopey changey type questions. Like the Arts Center which was highly popular. We have two ampitheaters, the Legacy, Sam's, as well as great auditoriums in our HS. Plus Coweta and Clayton already have them. Is this something we should spend time or money on? That is more the point RWM. a question without context is not going to get us far.

For example, our county has always supported the schools yet voted down multiple ESPLOSTs. It took severe times and straight facts to gain support. We need facts and context from Mr. Ross and the Chamber. We can even start with how a guy who works for Kaiser and doesn't seem to live here is a co chair?

Take Care

Is a self described servant-follower who improves the world around him, according to his linkedin profile. I'm sure glad I'm not the only one who appreciates the northsiders opinion on how we should manage ourselves. I bet Piedmont Fayette Hospital is happy to have him on board too.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

The Arts thing was pretty transparent but I feel we have enough in the way of venues and programs.

Affordable housing in PTC from new housing stock is only going to happen thru redevelopment of older areas or if someone figures out how to go vertical. Both are enormously complicated.

Probably the best place for that will be around Pinewood and the hospital within the area annexed by Fayetteville. And that is probably their agenda, to use Pinewood and the magical jobs creator that all the politicians have bought into and to leverage that into some high density housing. They already have sewer. We shall see. The thing about hidden agendas is they don't stay hidden for very long.

Live free or die!

yes, public art, not public arts. So, expect some of those painted cows from downtown Newnan to just gallop on over the border and plant themselves here in various spots.

Chairman Brown, taste is very subjective, we all know. Just be careful with this....oh, gosh, what am I saying?

Or a gargantuan Pinewood sign up on the hills overlooking Kedron (can you say Hollywood?)

I'm thinking the county realizes that the film industry doesn't pay enough or is steady enough for a family work here and afford to live here. Pinewood probably is pushing this affordable living. Perhaps someone needs to identify the dollar figure and density they want to hit. I believe we are second to Forsyth County in terms of per capita income. Are we now shooting for 5th place?

It would be helpful to Pinewood to have both temporary and affordable housing nearby. I am sure they will bring jobs and growth so I am not anti Pinewood. But Fayette was good enough to attract them so I do not buy in that we are horribly broken.

But the statistic you cited really struck me. Forsyth County has the Windward corridor south to provide good paying nearby jobs that not only could employ Jamie and her friends but also employ more seasoned professionals reducing commute times. We have so little of this type of nearby jobs engine and that really should be our focus point in my opinion. UGA has limits on how many Fayette County kids it will take becasue we could fill it. Many of these students graduate with degrees for jobs we have few of and thus our children need to go elsewhere.

When I referenced New Jersey, I grew up in a place called Parsippany. With the office parks full of jobs came more housing options, more job diversity, lower property taxes, and many amenities. I do not think we need to be as ambitious as they were but I can say I saw what good paying professional job growth can do. But if an ATT or other employer wanted to build something like NCR in PTC, where would it go? How many of their employees whould deal with 54/74? Like I said I think we have bigger problems than lofts for hipsters and arts centers.

Take Care

Believe me, we have it made.

I was driving north today on Hwy 85 and noticed new housing signs starting at $160K. Is that considered affordable for a young professional?

Or is affordable housing only desired near downtown Fayetteville or close to Pinewood?

Ms. Knox, please explain how the visioning effort is so inclusive of people your age. It seems that the only ones writing letters are those already involved in the chamber or county government. There was no public notice of Fridays meeting nor has the two web based forums been utilized sufficiently to be considered inclusive or successful .

Your young and want to impress. I understand that. Some of seasoned professionals see how the vision group use pawns in their attempt to justify their agenda. One day, you will understand and see through this. Until then, keep up the hard work.

Editor's picture

The Fayette Chamber in fact did email in advance at least to us (can't speak about other outlets) with a notification that the public bodies would be meeting together in a Chamber-hosted event.

It's also a fact that Ga. law requires each individual public entity (NOT the Chamber) to notify the public whenever its members attend any event in which a quorum is likely to be present.

I recall an email notice from the county commission. I do NOT recall any notices from any other public entity. The Citizen was NOT invited to the meeting.

Strictly speaking, the law requires each public entity to post the notice — and they may have on their websites and/or on their meeting place — and to notify the county's official legal organ. The Citizen is not the legal organ.

Also strictly speaking, by law, the Chamber is NOT a public body and had no legal obligation to notify anybody.

Only the public bodies themselves were legally obligated to post or send notices.

Mr. Editor. However all fingers point to the county adopting this as the next comprehensive plan, which in my humble opinion makes these public.

I went and found that editorial from Williamson County link below. Our neighbor Jamie's letter is very similar.

I have seen too many consultants who use the same template from client to client and the consultant brought to use by the Visioning people is the same one in Williamson. Same basic argument .

Its a shame that the puppet masters that be do not believe enough in their argument to speak plain and make their case.

Happy Sunday

Looks like Market St. is pushing their agenda all over the country. Too bad they have to use the young girls as pawns in the game.

I noticed the Vision people posted the report from with the results from the first survey. I haven't read the 54 page document yet. Will probably study it if we get stuck in this week.

Wouldn't be a hoot if it tells us we need high density, affordable housing with mass transit? Bob can go from fighting a TSplost to becoming a supporter and the county commissioners can start pushing the agenda they fought against last election.

I still don't like the fact that the COC is in charge. They have their own agenda and dispite their claim of getting others involved, it's selective. At least Mayor Haddix invited all to work on his survey. If the county adopts this as the comprehensive plan, they need to all be run off for not being transparent about this.

There's a lot of puppet mastery going on here. It's not what you know, but who you know.

The lady who wrote this article is related to the folks at Trinity Air. They are members of the COC.

Come on Bob, I thought you were smarter than this.

Look at Citizen Bob's FAQ says to contact for questions.

If you have questions about the process, please direct them to Paige Muh or Jamie Knox at the Fayette Chamber of Commerce...

But realize the Chamber is not a big player in this, we have assurances dammit. I think they should be but the denials are becoming Clintonian.

Got contacted this weekend. At least they are reading. Why can we not just communicate as neighbors in good will without the peek-a-boo and the too smart by half communications?

I do want to believe this is being done by good people with good intentions. Sadly we know where the road of unvetted good intentions leads to.

Take Care,

Seems like they are backtracking. I also noticed they didn't provide the courtesy of stating the form was revised. This is to make everyone believe that they provided the information from the beginning. How can anyone trust a group that plays the games they do.

Everyone can see that this is being spearheaded from the county. It's the county that has to deliver the comprehensive plan. They will rubber stamp this in June and we will be stuck with it.

If we are to believe our county commission as being transparent, they will step up and state the obvious and just say, they don't want the unwashed opinions.

I believe you are unjustifiably indicting the BOC. They would have had to vote to authorize someone to sign a contract and I have not seen any such subject on any Agenda for any BOC meeting. So-Mr. Prosecutor, just what is your evidence?

For submitting the comprehensive plan to the state not the COC, though they are allowed to do the work for the county. Is the county doing anything right now to prepare for this? Is there a line item in the county budget? Or did they appoint their friend to chair in a compromise to the COC, who offered to do all the work and perhaps pay for it.

If it's a county plan, than a portion of the committee should have been up for grabs to the best possible county resident who wants the opportunity, like an ethics committee opening. But it wasn't. It was put together without any prior notification.

AHG, if I'm wrong, and this ain't rubber stamped in June, I'll buy you dinner at Ted's

not Public ART Committee, on the county website. Big difference. March 13th, first meeting, open to the public. Glad that is cleared up.

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