On Thursday, March 2, 2023 the Council for Quality Growth and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual State of Gwinnett County address and breakfast featuring Commission Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson. Over 800 members of the Council and Chamber, elected officials, county leaders, partners, and friends of the Gwinnett community gathered at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville to hear Hendrickson’s 3rd address as Chairwoman. The 2023 State of Gwinnett was presented by Axis Companies and HNTB Corporation.
Hendrickson first took this stage 3 years ago, at the onset of the global pandemic. She returned this year, stating firmly that the county has recovered strong and continues to improve each year since. She commended the 5,000+ public servants in Gwinnett and their commitment to “serving with intention,” the theme of her 2023 address. “For decades, Gwinnett County Government has been intentional about our approach in ensuring the strength and stability of our county,” Hendrickson said, “When we make decisions that impact our residents, businesses, and visitors, we don’t do so lightly.”
She spoke first about the significance of water quality to a community’s economic and social development. Recently, Gwinnett reached an agreement with the state that secured the county’s water supply for the next 30 years, Lake Lanier. Last year, through a private-public partnership, Gwinnett also opened a new water tower that is taking charge of technological advancements, research, demonstrations, and training for the water industry. With decades of work and leading innovation, Gwinnett boasts the best tasting water in the state of Georgia.
The Chairwoman announced a 2022 unemployment rate of 2.3%, lower than the state and national averages. She reported 15 business expansions and 11 relocations that created 3,800 new, high-paying jobs in just the last year. Additionally, small business is booming thanks to the new Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center that provides customized mentorship and co-working space.
She spoke about housing, stating that Gwinnett has made a “conscious decision to elevate our actions around affordable housing” through the creation of a new Housing & Community Development division. In addition to administering federal housing funds, this new department is supporting the homeless by creating pathways to stable housing. She reported of a plan to bring 390 low-income, affordable housing units through various partnerships this year.
Chairwoman Hendrickson addressed the renewed SPLOST, which is expected to bring $1.35 billion in funding over the next 6 years to help with capital projects. She spoke about expanding micro transit and local service routes, including the rebranding of Ride Gwinnett, the county’s local public transit system. She announced plans to better reach underserved communities and create new transportation corridors throughout Gwinnett.
Though crime rates in Gwinnett are down, public safety remains an area of concern. Hendrickson commended the police department for their dedication to Gwinnett’s residents and their ability to collaborate with community stakeholders. She took a moment of silence to honor Senior Correctional Officer Scott Riner, who tragically lost his life in December on his way to work.
According to Hendrickson, other ways Gwinnett County is serving its community with intention include the Rowen project, which will be a home to innovation in the agricultural, environmental, and medical fields as well as prioritizing economic equity, market adjustments to retain a strong county workforce, including pay incentives and language learning, environmental efforts achieved through Sustainable Gwinnett, and the creation of an Arts & Creative Autonomy master plan to lean into the already vibrant culture of Gwinnett County.
She concluded by acknowledging the dozens of employees, departments, and elected leaders that work together to uphold the Gwinnett Standard among 5 commission districts and 16 cities in the county. “To serve with intention is to be thoughtful, purposeful, and deliberate in the things that we do,” she said “and to ensure today’s decisions build towards tomorrow’s solutions.”
Read coverage by the AJC here: https://www.ajc.com/news/gwinnett-chairwoman-talks-leadership-in-state-of-county-speech/AFK5E36B3ZABZA6LH7EOA663JE/