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Articles | JUNE/JULY 2011

Gwinnett County Living

Easy Access to a High Quality of Life

by Dawn Sloan Downes

Fireworks Punctuate a Celebration in Duluth

While the world heralds the Atlanta area as a business mecca with considerable opportunities for jobs and economic growth, few parts of the metro area embody those characteristics more than Gwinnett County. In fact, when you’re searching for a community where your family can put down roots, Gwinnett certainly is worth a look.

Gwinnett County has long been recognized as the fastest growing county in the state of Georgia and, for much of the 1980s, was also the fastest growing county in the United States. According to the 2010 census report, Gwinnett County’s population grew by nearly 37%. While much of the county’s growth in the 1980s and early 1990s was unchecked, wise county and city leaders took control of that growth over the last two decades, balancing economic development with long-term environmental, aesthetical, and other quality of life concerns to build a county known for its strong school system, great jobs, afford- able housing, and—in many of its communities—a way of life that hearkens back to days gone by.

Downtown SuwaneeGwinnett County was officially founded in 1818, with the town of Lawrenceville named as the permanent county seat in 1821. As the great Southern Railway cut its busy path through the county, towns like Suwanee, Duluth, Lilburn, and Norcross grew up out of the commercial development along the line and flourished, connecting the county’s rural roots with the new growth and prosperity of industrial development. Today, the county still prospers as home to major national and international corporations. According to Adrienne Saputo, Marketing Manager of Economic Development and Partnership Gwinnett at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnett County is now home to over 1,300 high-tech companies—more than any other county in Georgia. Additionally, over 275 of the state’s leading bioscience companies call Gwinnett home.

“Our highly-trained, diverse workforce, a moderate cost of doing business, and our proximity to six of the state’s leading research colleges and universities, have consistently made Gwinnett County one of the top three leaders in job growth in the state of Georgia since 2000,” adds Saputo. Gwinnett County offers more than just great job opportunities and a uniquely diverse community. Many Gwinnett residents proclaim their love of the laid-back lifestyle and access to a quality of life not offered by other parts of the metro area. Great schools top the list of those quality of life issues.

Gwinnett County Public Schools has been honored with the Broad PrizeGwinnett County recently became the largest school district in the state, educating 161,000 students in the 2010/11 school year. The district is comprised of 18 school clusters plus a set of charter, magnet, and concept schools including the Gwinnett Online Campus. In spite of its size, the district offers some of the best schools in the state, recently winning the Broad Prize for Urban Education—popularly known as the “Nobel Prize of Public Education”—which honors the top five large urban school districts that exhibit the strongest student achievement and improvement while narrow- ing achievement gaps between income and ethnic groups.

In recent years Gwinnett voters approved local option sales tax referendums to support both their public libraries and their parks and recreation system. In fact, Gwinnett County has been recognized as having one of the most outstanding Parks and Recreation departments in the United States with over 8,000 acres of greenspace, 39 parks, including two skate parks and nine water parks and aquatic centers. The county even boasts a park designed especially for children with special needs. An extensive list of youth sports is also offered. The Parks and Recreation Department even hosts a Disc Golf challenge each summer to raise funds which will offset the costs of activities for low-income children and senior citizens who wish to take part in parks activities but cannot afford the fees.

Suwanee Town CenterGwinnett’s towns and cities offer their own charming ways of life as well. In Suwanee, residents enjoy plays, concerts, festivals, and movie nights on the Town Center, the thriving heart of the community anchored by a seven-acre park.he area.

According to Lynn DeWilde, marketing director for the City of Suwanee, 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of a $17.1 million voter approved bond referendum to fund public greenspace and parks. In all, seven parks have been funded and built, including the Town Center, an urban playground, a community garden, and a lake surrounded by walking trails.

The City of Suwanee has also committed to public art, encouraging developers to use one percent of a project's development costs to create public art within all new developments. Also, through March 2012 the city will host SculpTOUR, a walking tour of public art placed throughout Town Center and the city’s historic downtown. Residents can vote for the work of art they love most and the winning sculpture will be purchased by the city for permanent display.

The City of Duluth offers The City of Duluth has also earned recognition for its commitment to the arts. Each year the city hosts the Duluth Fall Festival which at- tracts over 100,000 visitors for a weekend of art and music held on the Town Green, an elaborate series of terraced greenspace that culminates at the foot of a Victorian-inspired arts pavilion. The Town Green is in the heart of Duluth’s downtown, surrounded by shops and restaurants adjacent to the town’s Taylor Park. Friday evenings find families enjoying the city’s “Flicks on the Bricks” program and residents can enjoy weekday “Brown Bag Lunches” featuring live music and other family- friendly performances in the amphitheater.

When it comes to finding a home in Gwinnett County the offerings are plentiful, from multi- million dollar estates in the Sugarloaf area to the more moderately priced Suwanee Station town- homes located near the area’s town center and featuring two- to three-bedroom homes beginning in the $150s, a junior Olympic swimming pool, eight lighted tennis courts with an onsite tennis pro, a fitness center and an amphitheater.

Fishing in GwinnettFamilies looking for single-family developments might find what they’re looking for in the John Thomas Homes development Baxley Ridge located in Duluth’s esteemed Peachtree Ridge school district. Set upon one of Gwinnett County’s highest elevations the development features three- to six-bedroom homes beginning in the $210s, many of which feature an unusual porte-cochere style. The Lakes at Sugarloaf, a Beazer Homes development, offers 100% Energy Star homes with three to six bedrooms in a gated community beginning at $242,900.

Families eager to find an energetic, family- focused community that provides them with easy access to the city while allowing them to live in “Mayberry-like” confines won’t go wrong establishing their new home in Gwinnett County. The mantra once spouted by civic leaders and residents throughout the 1980s and ‘90s still holds true today: Gwinnett is, indeed, great!