Leaders to visit Research Triangle
County officials hope to get inspiration from trip to N.C.

LAWRENCEVILLE - Earlier this summer, local and regional officials announced the creation of the "Innovation Crescent," a marketing brand for economic development from Atlanta to Athens.

Today, 56 Gwinnett leaders will visit one of the inspirations for the partnership - North Carolina's Research Triangle.

This is the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's third Strategic Leadership Visit, after civic and business leaders toured Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., and Dallas suburb, Collin County, Texas.

The leaders will explore, education, transportation, revitalization, arts and other issues in Wake County, where North Carolina's capital of Raleigh is located.

The county's population is slightly larger than Gwinnett's - more than 800,000 people. While the land area is twice as large as Gwinnett's 432 square miles, the unemployment rate and average household income are nearly identical.

"Our communities share some similar experiences when it comes to managing phenomenal growth," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in a welcome letter to the conference participants, who are scheduled to arrive in North Carolina this morning.

"We are honored you have chosen to visit our city, and hope that we are able to provide you with some valuable insight as you prepare to meet the challenges ahead for such a fast-growing county as Gwinnett."

In addition to chamber officials and business leaders, Gwinnett's top government and school leaders will attend the event, along with CEOs of both local hospitals, a college president and numerous city mayors and council members.

Demming Bass, vice president of marketing and public policy for the Gwinnett Chamber, said trips to Raleigh's Centennial Campus could provide a glimpse at what the fledgling Georgia Gwinnett College campus could become and the revitalization of Raleigh and Durham could inspire community improvement district leaders in southern Gwinnett.

"The idea isn't to replicate a community because the dynamics are different. It is meant to trigger a spark of an idea," Bass said.

He said the 2006 visit to Fairfax triggered the formation of Partnership Gwinnett, a chamber-driven economic development movement. The 2007 Texas trip, he said, contributed to the drive to create a minor-league baseball stadium in Lawrenceville and the study of a public-private partnership for a proposed extension to Ronald Reagan Parkway.

"It'll be exciting to see what comes out of this," Bass said.