Brown: Must seize opportunities for Fayette’s future

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Fayette County drifted into a state of dormancy prior to the recession. There was no vision. Once the recession hit, we began a slow decline with property values sinking and sales tax revenue flattening.

Our economic fog will soon be lifting. It is absolutely imperative that we get our county back to a competitive state of mind.

Fayette rode the top of the quality of life wave for over a decade. Our stellar statistical accomplishments were the envy of the entire state.

We are now in a position where our quality of life numbers are being surpassed by other metropolitan jurisdictions. Forsyth County to the north now takes the top honors with schools, median income and median home values. They are also attracting the top job prospects.

Fayette County needs a boost of economic passion and enthusiasm. We have some great momentum builders like the new Pinewood Studios in addition to many of our existing industries adding significant capacity to their operations.

However, our local governments must be prepared to seize opportunities when they become available and that means getting the financial house in order.

Your county government is no longer in a deficit spending position and we are beginning to build our fund balance back.

The cities have done an excellent job of keeping their heads above water during a very strenuous financial period. They are running on bare bones budgets and have had to put a lot of work on hold.

The county is no longer in an adversarial position with the cities. We want to help the cities succeed, knowing if the cities thrive, the county prospers also.

One thing we have to achieve is getting our infrastructure back in working order. It is difficult to regain the winning edge when you cannot keep essential elements functioning.

The Core Infrastructure SPLOST is one option for bringing some of our existing infrastructure in the county and cities back into a state of good repair. We have issued a challenge to the two critics of our effort to bring all their questions and concerns to our Oct. 10 Board of Commissioners meeting, so we can issue formal, public answers for everyone to view.

We are now beginning to pull funding from the state and regional governments for road, path and bridge projects. Things are beginning to take shape with the Ga. Highway 74 and Interstate 85 interchange project in Fairburn. Our hard work is beginning to pay off, but we must be able to pay the 20-percent match on the funding grants.

Currently, we are limping along, at best, especially if we have to fund things like aging stormwater projects out of the general fund.

Looking to our future, we must be able to bring top-notch fiber optic technology with gigabit Internet service to Peachtree City, Fayetteville and Tyrone. We will get an enormous strategic advantage concerning luring technology and corporate headquarters jobs with the ultra-fast service which is only available in limited areas in metropolitan Atlanta.

Not only will gigabit service, 100 times faster Internet speeds, be a major corporate attraction, but it will also help our schools and our students.

Facebook Incorporated is building exclusive residential housing near its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters for its employees. One of the perks they list is a system of multi-use paths.

At one point in time, we were light years ahead of the competition with multi-use path infrastructure. Other areas are now catching up with us.

We are looking to make some significant multi-use path extensions in the center part of the county near the Pinewoods Studio down toward Piedmont Fayette Hospital. The county is looking at identifying specific corridors for multi-use path expansion.

We have the best path network base in the country, and it is a definite part of our quality of life attraction and it is something our local competition cannot provide.

Creating the right kind of outdoor friendly environment with the right amenities will set the stage for attracting a legitimate college campus in the center of the county. Developing innovative student housing that provides higher satisfaction than the traditional run of the mill college housing options will also enhance our competitiveness.

Our crime rates have been consistently low, and we need to look at technological investments that will continue to keep our community safe. Finding cooperative savings with our cities concerning public safety will give us an edge in attracting those companies that value quality of life and lower taxes.

Adding an art trend feel to our rural flavor would also add to our corporate appeal. Looking at ways to engage art in our public and private spaces is attractive to people with creative leanings. This is the perfect complement to the television and film talent heading our way.

Redevelopment of Fayetteville’s old commercial spaces will bring new life and energy to that area. Using inter-parcel connectivity other than Ga. Highway 85 will enhance the possibility of quality redevelopment even further.

Peachtree City must relieve the traffic stranglehold surrounding the intersection of Hwy. 74 and Hwy. 54. A significant amount of the sale tax revenue generated in our county derives from the retail stores west of Hwy. 74. Create more traffic congestion in that area and the golden goose begins to lay fewer eggs.

I believe the strategic use of sewer could lift Tyrone’s aging downtown infrastructure. There is a need to maintain the quaint feel, but to not let the community be bypassed by opportunity. Tyrone could be a place with trendy shops and cool restaurants just a short drive down Sandy Creek Road from Pinewood Studios.

For balance, we need to find a way to preserve large tracts of green space for the long term in the southern part of the county.

It is truly possible to have unique places with a unified vision and carry ourselves to the next level of success.

Steve Brown, chairman

Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Fayetteville, Ga.