Partnership Gwinnett's first year called a success

LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite the challenges presented by a slowing economy, Partnership Gwinnett has had a successful first year, officials said Thursday during a summit designed to give a progress update on the initiative's four goals.

Powerful ideas are at the root of the community and economic development initiative's initial success, said Alfie Meek, Gwinnett County's director of economic development.

Ideas have consequences, Meek said, and can affect Gwinnett's transportation, growth, education, quality of life and more.

"As we go forward from here, we have to remember not only good ideas have consequences," Meek said. "So do bad ones - the idea that Gwinnett's best days are behind us, that once our kids graduate we're moving out, that we can pave our way out of the traffic problem, the idea that the rest of the world cares where the city and county lines are drawn.

"We have started well," he said, adding Partnership Gwinnett is well established, well funded, well staffed and highly respected. "Let us not lose our momentum and our focus. Let's think big, and let's finish well."

Partnership Gwinnett's first annual report was released during the Community and Economic Develop Summit at Gwinnett Technical College's Busbee Center.

The report outlines the initiative's progress in its five-year strategy of job growth and wealth creation, education and work force excellence, quality of life enhancement and marketing and outreach promotion. Some key accomplishments include the following:

n Successfully closing two major incentive deals: Meggitt Training Systems and Suniva Inc.

n Hiring 10 professionals to carry out Partnership Gwinnett's goals and objectives.

n Raising $8.15 million of the five-year goal of $10 million.

n Helping Gwinnett Tech successfully lobby to fund its Life Science Building.

n Launching SchoolLink, an initiative to recruit and place business people in a mentoring program to help at-risk students in school and raise achievement scores.

n Partnering with Gwinnett Medical Center to rally the business community's support for the hospital's successful bid to secure open heart surgery in Gwinnett.

n Creating and launching hYPe, Gwinnett Young Professionals, which attracted 300 members in two months.

n Launching the new "Success Lives Here" brand as a regional, national and international marketing campaign.

In addition, 40 companies have relocated or expanded major new facilities in Gwinnett, accounting for more than 2,900 new jobs, the annual report shows.

"Positive change is what Partnership Gwinnett is all about," said Kerry Armstrong of Duke Realty Corp., Partnership Gwinnett's 2008 chairman. "With a difficult economy invading every aspect of life, it is more important than ever that we have a plan for success and stability and that is what Partnership Gwinnett has done. It has led proactive efforts to create jobs, maximize education and work force potential, improve overall quality of life and tell Gwinnett's story to the world."