Staff Photo: John Bohn Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris delivers the annual State of the City address at Gwinnett Center on Tuesday. Harris emphasized the importance of attracting young professionals to reside in Duluth.
DULUTH -- Nancy Harris is a hometown girl who chose to live her entire life in Duluth.
Now the mayor of the town, Harris is trying to build a place where the next generation will want to live, work and play.
Sharing her vision for Duluth during her annual State of the City address Tuesday, Harris said the city is experiencing a "paradigm shift" in hoping to attract and keep millenials in the community.
The young professionals, she said, no longer choose to live in a place because of a job. Instead, they find a cool place to live and then the jobs follow.
"We have a lot going on here, but are they really the options the young generation is looking for?" Harris said of the city's ambition to attract the millenial generation -- born between 1982 and 2002 -- that makes up 47 percent of Georgia's workforce.
"Announcing 250 jobs doesn't attract if your city is not cool," she said. "We are place-making in Duluth."
Using the example of Little Five Points in Atlanta, which made Forbes' Top 20 Coolest Cities list, Harris said the city is looking to support its music and theater scene, increase walkability, add authentic shopping and "slow-cook" restaurants.
"We baby boomers are looking for the exact same things," Harris said, explaining the city's focus on wellness, like outdoor activities at parks and sidewalks, engaging a younger generation interested in politics and adding fun things to do.
The introduction of Atlanta music promoter Eddie Owen to the Red Clay Theatre a year ago has helped the city create a music scene, Harris said, and the city's efforts to make the city walkable have been applauded with The Golden Shoe Award two years in a row.
Harris showed off the resources using a visual tour with photos with "Mayor" Shiner, the dog chosen as the face of Chattapoochee Dog Park.
The pair of mayors visited some of downtown Duluth's shops and restaurants, big and small businesses.
Harris touted the businesses, encouraging the more than 250 attendees to shop local.
The vision is beginning to take shape, Harris said, publicly stating a goal of adding a dozen new restaurants to the downtown area in 2013 and extending the city borders along Pleasant Hill Road to help add options. Public art projects are in the works, and, if plans to extend transit to the suburbs come through, leaders are working on larger plans to make sure the rail line stops in Duluth.
Funding, though, is still a question, especially with the county sales tax program coming before voters again later this year.
"I think (Harris) did an excellent job of explaining what is going on in the town," said Terry Crouch, president of the Duluth Civitan Club, which put on the program "She does great."