MARAN: Stimulus to help home market, boost local spending

Last month, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce joined dozens of public and private sector partners to launch Let's Do Business Gwinnett, an unprecedented economic stimulus plan for Gwinnett County designed to assist homeowners, small businesses, and the construction and real estate industries by stabilizing housing prices and stimulating local consumer, business and public sector spending.

If successful, Gwinnett County could benefit from a potential economic impact of more than $1.8 billion to the local economy over the next five years. The initiative is focused on two key elements:

* Increased spending on residential property and vacant lots in Gwinnett. Gwinnett County government, banks, mortgage companies, the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, the Impact Group and the Gwinnett Housing Authority have collaborated on a package that essentially "continues" a similar version of the federal homebuyer tax incentives that expired April 30 for homes and lots purchased in Gwinnett County.

They include an approximately $5,000 down payment incentive for new constructed homes priced up to $205,000. Also, through a coalition of Gwinnett banks, special financing and products are being offered that home buyers can't get anywhere else in the market, including special low-interest loans for select houses as low as 3.49 percent for homes purchased in Gwinnett.

The short- and long-term result of these efforts will be an increased demand for Gwinnett properties resulting in a reduction of empty lots, distressed properties and available homes with limited buyers. The move should also stabilize lot and home values; increase consumer spending and jobs for the residential home industry (construction, sales, financing); increase home values; and lower taxes through increased tax digest for city, county and school services.

* Increased private and public sector spending in Gwinnett. The second component of the plan is a campaign in response to the estimated $20 million in daily business that is being lost to companies outside of Gwinnett specifically, but also metro Atlanta. The campaign exists to encourage all Gwinnett businesses and local governments to consider buying from Gwinnett businesses before buying outside the county and region.

Under the new program, participating companies can go to www.letsdobusinessgwinnett.com and pledge to examine their books and work to shift a portion of their out-of-Gwinnett spending back to Gwinnett.

According to similar programs in comparable counties/regions, if the Let's Do Business Gwinnett program can achieve a five percent shift in purchasing, that could mean as much as approximately $1 million each day or $365 million each year that will affect Gwinnett County's economy. As this money moves through the community, it "multiplies" and would also result in significant job growth jobs.

The impact -- at only five percent -- would be overwhelming and enrich our tax base while improving public services, streets, schools, parks and playgrounds, expanding business, attracting businesses, and creating jobs. We hope to not only improve the bottom line for local businesses while encouraging local businesses and governments to take a look at their purchasing habits and seek out-of-area purchases they could potentially bring back into the local area. Doing so makes our community and region a better place to live by creating a stronger economy for our businesses.

The long-term overall impact could be significant and far-reaching. If all of the predicted benefits are realized, Gwinnett County could potentially see more than $1.8 billion in economic impact and significant job growth created over the next five years through these actions.

Visit www.letsdobusinessgwinnett.com today and join our efforts.

Jim Maran is CEO and president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.