MURPHY: County in great shape for what may lie ahead

J.K. Murphy

J.K. Murphy

At another newspaper in another community, reporters were under orders to follow any cement truck they came upon because it could lead to a story. When concrete trucks are considered a valid news tip, it's an indication that there can't be much else going on. (Can you imagine tailing cement trucks in Gwinnett County? The Daily Post would need an army of reporters.)

There's a lot more concrete being poured here than in most other places -- even during this economic downturn. Gwinnettians are feeling it, but can take solace that the pain is milder here than in other parts.

The factors helping Gwinnett weather the storm are mentioned prominently throughout today's special Progress edition of the Post. This annual publication traditionally reviews the state of the county over the last year and makes predictions for the next. This year, since we're at the start of a new decade, the newsroom took a longer look and themed the 2010 version "The Next Ten Years."

To help us prognosticate, the Post called upon those who will be at the helm of USS Gwinnett as it travels toward 2020.

The encouraging news you'll hear from these "captains of the county" is that the same elements that have buoyed Gwinnett during this economic blight will continue to benefit the community for the next 10 years.

Those include the local school system and secondary education opportunities, the efforts of the county and the Chamber of Commerce to attract the right kind of jobs, the health systems that care for the county's 800,000, the redevelopment of the "mature" areas of Gwinnett in the three Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), the rebirth of downtowns across the county, the infrastructure that supports incredible growth and most importantly the people who have built and live in this most vibrant community and who care for one another.

Challenges lie ahead, but the consensus is Gwinnett has positioned itself to better face whatever is thrown at her.

I in no way suggest the following as a replacement for reading our Progress edition, but to whet your appetite for what Gwinnett will look like in 10 years, here's some random thoughts expressed by our prophets ...

* Gwinnett County will NOT reach a million people by 2020, as some have been forecasting for years. Growth will continue, but is being slowed by the recession and the "maturity" of the county.

* The most recent diversification of Gwinnett was spurred by the growth of the construction industry here and came mostly from South America. The catalyst for the next wave of diversity will be high-paying jobs and will attract residents from Asia.

* Gwinnett County will become the "international center" for metro Atlanta.

* This "international influence" will lead to dense population centers, multistory construction and better transportation within Live-Work-Play communities.

* The next 10 years will be a decade of transition from a development wave to a technology wave.

* While every corporate relocation and expansion will be welcomed, small business will continue to play a critical role in the economic health of the region. Those small businesses will be the lifeblood in the continued renaissance of Gwinnett's downtowns.

For more views into the decade, see today's 24-page special section, "The Next Ten Years."

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.