Visioning initiative visits Newton County

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By Trey Ragsdale and Robert Ross

“Planning for the future ... Growth will happen whether we are prepared or not; we decide our future; we believe in collaboration; we understand greatness takes time and we want future generations to benefit.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? That statement comes from Newton County, a metro Atlanta community that is actively planning for their future growth.

Several Fayette leaders spent a day last week with top Newton County officials, including the chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners and the superintendent of schools, to discuss techniques they used to create their plan.

One of the many highlights of that plan is how it goes about reserving space for inevitable and necessary development while protecting natural resources, rural culture, and reducing infrastructure costs by $3.3 billion.

Yes, that’s a taxpayer savings of $3.3 billion over the next 30 years.

A key technique for Newton has been frequent face-to-face meetings by its government, business, and other civic leaders to discuss issues and strategy at a neutral location called “The Center.” However that crucial interface is accomplished, the benefits were evident throughout the county.

We asked how they developed their plan to protect the rural/small town character and remain competitive for well-paying jobs; how they collaborated, funded the process, and landed three colleges.

Among Newton’s other achievements is a new Baxter International Inc. plant that will employ 2,000 area residents. Baxter is a global developer and manufacturer of medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

Newton County, with a population smaller than ours, is clearly on the move as one of many metro, state, and regional competitors for talented youth, appropriate development, more educational opportunities, and a higher quality of life.

Community visioning processes are not new to Georgia or metro Atlanta. Fayette neighbors to the north, south, east, and west have recently gone through similar visioning processes.

We will learn from them, as well as three other counties our consulting partner, Market Street Services, is researching that include Hanover County, Va. (Richmond), Forsyth County, Ga. (Cumming), and Williamson County, Tenn. (Nashville).

We will, of course, share all of the progress on our new website, expected to go live by mid-December. For now, you can follow us on Twitter at @fcvisioning, and on facebook.com/fcvision.

Trey Ragsdale and Bob Ross, Co-Chairs

Fayette Visioning Process

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I may have missed something in an earlier column, but I am confused. Can you educate those of us who don't understand. Who is sponsoring this plan? The county? Chamber of Commerce? Or some other group?

Is this being done to update or supersede the county's comprehensive plan?