Last week, University of Georgia economists at the Selig Center for Economic Growth issued a dire forecast for Georgia's economic recovery this decade. According to the report, the Georgia economy will not return to pre-recession employment levels until 2020. More important than the timeline for recovery is the underlying message of what it will take to achieve it. For years, Georgia's economic growth outpaced the rest of the nation, fueled by technology, housing, and finance. But, the tech bust of the early 2000s and the real estate collapse of the late 2000s has meant a drastic and sudden reversal of fortunes in our state. The message from UGA's economists is that we must rethink growth strategies and recalibrate around a new set of drivers for the Georgia economy of the 21st century.
And now you're probably asking "what does this have to do with walking and biking trails?"
According to Maria Saporta, in her Atlanta Business Chronicle blog, it has everything to do with walking and biking. She shared her perspective on what the UGA forecast means to Georgians in an article published Monday titled "After decades of growth, Georgia now facing a whole new economic reality."
In Saporta's view, Georgia has been coasting for years on past glories. And, in this century, we have lost our competitive edge. Looking at US cities faring best this decade, she sees a common thread for economic vibrancy: places that appeal to college-educated youth.
"Because they can choose where they want to live," Saporta writes. "Young people are picking cities and states with great amenities — communities that offer a high quality of life for them — walkable live, work and play neighborhoods with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parks, transit and a thriving arts and cultural scene."
Maybe those arguing "now is not the time" for building greenway trails and parks are right. Perhaps, as it turns out, the time to do so was yesterday! Not only must Georgia compete with other states and Atlanta with other metro areas for growth, but Newton County must go toe-to-toe with the rest of Georgia. If not this, then what? What is our strategy for creating a place tourists want to visit and small businesses and growth industries want to call home?
Perhaps yesterday was the time to act, but we are where we are. And, there's no time like the present.