In another Monday report, Saporta recapped a talk by developer and Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Chris Leinberger. Saying "Hot-lanta is No Longer Hot," Leinberger delivered a pointed wake up call to Rotary Club of Atlanta members. In a talk heavy on examples of how other cities are outpacing our region in every key economic indicator, he criticized Atlanta for investing in "yesterday's economy and not tomorrow's." In particular, he stressed the importance of transit and creating "walkable urban spaces rather than drivable suburban spaces."
“That’s why Atlanta has flat-lined,” Leinberger said. "It only has five walkable urban neighborhoods while Washington, D.C. has more than 40."
These experts were speaking of the metro Atlanta region, which reaches well into the western fringes of Newton County. But, the sounding alarms should be heeded by leadership across all of Newton County. Like the state and the metro region, we must stop building yesterday's economy and lay the groundwork for the economy of tomorrow. Ironically, while our county has fallen far behind in yesterday's framework, we have certain advantages if we embrace the coming model. Leinberger alluded to one such advantage when describing the "experience economy" built on tourism, which he called "the biggest industry on the planet." Newton County has an edge there, but now is when we must exploit it. And, as we have said many times, greenway trails are great tourism attractions with proven economic impact.
Thankfully, some Newton County leaders are recognizing the urgent need for better walking and biking facilities in area. To that end, the cities of Covington, Oxford, and Porterdale (C-O-P) have launched a project with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC) and Newton Trails to examine current facilities and identify priorities for improving walking and biking. Mayors Ronnie Johnston, Jerry Roseberry, and Arline Chapman are all actively engaged, along with County Commission Chair Kathy Morgan. This is a huge step forward in recognizing what the Regional Walking and Biking Plan already shows -- that C-O-P is a critical focus area for the region.
You can make a difference by responding to a questionnaire the city's are conducting through NEGRC. A paper version of the survey is being mailed in this month's utility bills, but you can take the survey now online. We have leaders willing to chart a new course; show them you have their backs by taking the survey and making it clear the people of Newton County are ready to embrace the future.
We can do this!