Depending on your political philosophy, “economic development” is well within, or completely outside, the role of local government. But philosophies aside, the stark reality of the current economic landscape dictates that city governments actively pursue initiatives that will fuel economic growth. To do otherwise is to ensure a steady erosion of the tax base which will ultimately lead to a spike in property tax rates, a reduction in government services or both.
In Gwinnett County, municipal economic development programs are essential, not simply for prosperity, but for survival. With virtually every one of the county’s 16 cities actively trying to attract new businesses and support existing ones, economic competition is strong.
Fortunately, thanks to the foresight of Council members who supported the hiring of an economic development director, Snellville has become one of the county’s more aggressive—and successful– cities. During the past three years, in the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, Snellville has experienced a surge in business activity. Recently opened businesses include Academy Sports, the Olive Garden, a stand-alone Verizon store, and a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Much of this activity has resulted from purely economic factors—attractively priced real estate, desirable demographics and physical location. But a highly influential non-economic factor is the city’s recently renewed sense of community that has manifested itself most noticeably in the award-winning Snellville Farmer’s market and the emerging Community Garden.
That point was driven home at a recent economic development orientation program held in Atlanta. Several economic development specialists from state and local agencies noted that community amenities and pride can be just as important as economic considerations in attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones. In fact, an information sheet from the Georgia Academy of Economic Development places “Evidence of Community Pride” at the top of its “Clues to Community Survival ” list.
With Snellville’s motto being, “Where Everybody is Proud to Be Somebody”, the verbiage of community pride is in place. But it takes more than words to make a statement that has a lasting impact. Snellville’s Farmer’s Market delivers that lasting impact. It demonstrates that the community has an active group of volunteers who band together and work for no other purpose that to improve community life. In less than three years, the Farmer’s Market has completely transformed Saturday mornings during the summer. In addition to providing a place to find fresh, locally grown produce, the Farmer’s Market has become a venue for socializing and entertainment. And the awards that have been won by the market make it a showpiece of civic pride that has received widespread recognition.
Snellville’s new Community Garden will potentially provide even greater evidence of community pride. It has already transformed an empty field in Briscoe Park into an attractively fenced focal point for gardeners and nature lovers. Ultimately, the Garden will be a source of fresh vegetables for the families who raise them and for local charities. With an assortment of flowers, trees and decorative plantings, it will also be a place to simply enjoy natural surroundings.
Combined with Snellville Days, the Beach Blast, Live on the Lawn, Popcorn in the Park, Star Spangled Snellville, Around the World Visits Snellville, The Fall Festival and the Christmas Tree Lighting, the Farmer’s Market and Community Garden offer more than ample evidence of community pride. Yet it doesn’t end there. Later this year, when the Snellville Veteran’s Memorial is completed and the eternal flame relit, there will be yet another reason why “Everybody is proud to be Somebody” in Snellville. And that pride will help continue to fuel the engine that drives Snellville’s economy.