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Leaders: Stimulus plan set

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett leaders are planning their own stimulus package, strategizing to boost public and private sector spending and convincing banks to give their own incentives for the housing market.

During a press conference Friday, officials said the program, outlined at www.letsdobusinessgwinnett.com, could have a $1 billion impact on the local economy.

"There are a lot of people hurting in our economy, and we've got to get the stakeholders together to figure out how we can help," said Bartow Morgan, a banking executive who heads the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce board. "We want to encourage home ownership in Gwinnett County.

The local government and nonprofits collaborated to put together a package to create something similar to the federal homebuyer tax incentives, which expired in April, including a $5,000 down payment incentive for newly constructed homes priced up to $205,000.

And six banks, including Morgan's Brand Bank, have agreed to below-market interest packages to encourage homeownership.

"I think it's a great thing for the community," said 27-year-old Bill Rogers, who recently completed a down payment assistance program through the IMPACT! Group before purchasing a Buford home with his wife. "It's a great thing for people to have a chance."

He said the down payment assistance helped give the couple -- a schoolteacher and minister -- confidence to move forward with a home purchase. "We were scared we would break the bank," he said.

The press conference staged at Jacobs Farm, a Sweetgum Road development that was stubbed for more than 200 homes before the economic recession hit.

While the county was once one of the fastest growing in the nation, the construction industry has fallen dramatically because of a glut of housing stock. The county has 4,902 bank-owned homes for sale, accourding to realtytrac.com, and the county has an eight month supply of homes at the current sales pace, according to March statistics.

As part of the stimulus package, leaders are encouraging businesses and the government to spend money within the county.

"If you can get it locally, it meets your needs, your standards and your price, why not buy it locally?" Chamber President Jim Maran said. "It's that simple, that direct, but a big impact."

Chairman Charles Bannister said it would also give the county sales tax dollars and the housing initiative could help in providing quality government services by boosting the tax base.

"When communities and neighbors work together for the common good, everybody wins -- local businesses, employees, citizens and county government," he said.

The county government and local cities, as well as the school system and hospital, have committed to review their purchasing practices to consider local companies.