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Norton: Hall County economy now on upswing
Housing is up by 15 percent
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WomenSource Brown Bag Lunches

What: The next lunch will be titled "The Man Is Not the Plan...Exploring the World of Trust & Estate Planning from a Woman's Perspective"

When: Noon on Feb. 3

Where: Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center

Cost: $5, includes lunch

More Info: Online

Despite the "pain around us," Hall County is in a state of stability and economic recovery, a local real estate expert said Thursday.

Housing sales statewide are down 8 percent compared to last year, but up by 15 percent in Hall County, Frank Norton said at the WomenSource brown bag lunch at Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center in Gainesville.

"Only when you look at all of Atlanta can you appreciate what's going on in Hall County," he said during his presentation titled "5 Things You Need to Know in 2011."

Norton said North Georgians should be prepared in 2011 for a shifting view of the home, with people cutting back on entertainment spending and spending more time with family. He said the purpose of a home has changed in the last decade.

"We were buying houses as shelter, to provide one of those basic needs," he said. "But somewhere in the 2000s someone told us to use our house as an ATM machine. So we refinanced our houses to go to Hawaii."

Norton said as people move away from those practices, the area will see less "McMansions." He also said the market is moving toward homes with bigger kitchens for people who are staying home rather than dining out, and more outdoor rooms that take advantage of the region's weather.

Jeanne Buffington, who often attends the WomenSource lunches, said it's easy to focus on negatives, but being presented with positive statistics about the county, such as home sales, was encouraging.

One of the most shocking statistics Norton delivered, eliciting gasps from the crowd, was related to retail spending.

In Dawson County, 15 percent of retail tax revenue comes from Hall County shoppers, which is especially surprising considering the county makes more in retail taxes than property taxes thanks to the North Georgia Premium Outlets.

In the last five years, Norton said, Hall County has given Dawson County enough retail tax revenue to build a new elementary school.

"Those numbers were very shocking," said Caroline Alday after the presentation."And it makes you realize how much you should shop local," said her friend Carol Ann Armstrong.

Both women said they attend the WomenSource lunches regularly for the opportunity to meet people they otherwise wouldn't have the chance to interact with.

The group started in 2008 and holds brown bag lunches every month. While the event normally draws about 125 people, Thursday's event was the most well attended, with 160 reservations.

LeTrell Simpson, vice president of WomenSource, said that's a sign the organization is doing something right and tapping into a need in the community.

"We try to hit on issues that are key to women in the community, women of all ages and backgrounds," she said.

"We're interested in all women."

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