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South Hall leading way out of recession, Norton says
Real estate exec gives region's forecast at business meeting
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FLOWERY BRANCH — South Hall is helping lead the region in economic recovery, Gainesville real estate executive Frank Norton Jr. told a group of business and community leaders Tuesday.

“We are seeing strong shoots of recovery throughout North Atlanta and specifically in South Hall,” he said during the South Hall Business Coalition’s meeting at the Hall County Library System’s Spout Springs branch off Spout Springs Road.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce sponsors the coalition.

“We live next door to a 750,000-person gorilla called Gwinnett (County), which has an average house price higher than ours, that has other crowded conditions and problems,” Norton said. “We are that next domino.

“We have a great school system, great infrastructure, great recreational lifestyle. Ladies and gentlemen, (people) are still coming.”
Norton also predicted, as part of an hourlong presentation featuring computerized charts and graphs, that Hall would reach 200,000 residents in the 2010 Census, down slightly from his 1990 estimate of 205,000.

He said that Hall County has generally prepared itself well for recovery because of its diversified industry and economy, compared to Forsyth County, where the main industry has been growth.

South Forsyth is tops in the area in emerging from the economic doldrums, followed by certain pockets of Gwinnett.

“A tie for third is three parts of counties — south Cherokee, South Hall and little bits of Barrow,” said Norton, president of the Norton Agency in Gainesville. “We have certain ingredients here that are creating this attraction and the new energy we are seeing.”

Recovery won’t be immediate, however.

“We’re not going to be replenishing our pool of new houses,” he said. “What that does is create price stability on all the resales. By midsummer ... we’re also going to see appreciation of traditional housing because they’re no longer going to compete with new housing.”

As those markets improve, “I don’t see a major construction boom until 2017,” Norton said.

Norton also projected that while Hall County retailers still need to re-employ workers and rebuild inventory, plans for major shopping centers that had been shelved because of the economy’s downfall are still on the drawing board.

He projected that plans for those could be resurrected in 2012 and perhaps see construction in 2013.

Meanwhile, commercial centers at Interstate 985 and Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch and Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood will continue to intensify, Norton said.

“We are seeing the emergence of a South Hall retail component,” he said. “If we continue to capture that, then we capture that sales-tax dollar. And we also capture jobs here.”

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