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Opinion: Our community has made positive progress despite pandemic
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The new downtown Gainesville development Gainesville Renaissance continues to rise Wednesday, March 17, 2021, on the fourth side of the square. The new development will be a collection of luxury residences and retail space. - photo by Scott Rogers

Each year at this time, we publish our Progress edition, an annual snapshot of things happening within the Hall County area that add to its quality of life and underscore the spirit of the community, the changes taking place and the overall strength of the local economy.

Given the realities of the past 12 months, it was reasonable to suspect that this year’s effort would be more of a challenge than in the past. But it turns out that even during a year in which there was uncertainty about so much, the one certainty upon which we could depend was that the wheels of progressive growth kept turning here at home, even if slowed a bit by a worldwide pandemic, political upheaval and social unrest.

Considering that the content in this year’s pages chronicle many good things that happened against a backdrop of doom and gloom that marked so much of 2020 worldwide, the stories become even more worthy of the telling.

There are so many good things happening in our area that it’s impossible to capture them all in one publication, but this annual edition is meant to be a reminder that ours is an exceptional area in which to live and that positive changes are happening at a remarkable pace that makes us the envy of many other communities.

Inside the Progress section you’ll find stories about:

  • A strong regional medical system that has been at the forefront of public awareness for the past year, with plans for a $700 million hospital expansion and a new emergency room that would double the size of the existing ER, and the planned addition of three new residency programs to the three that now exist at the teaching hospital.
  • School construction and renovation projects for both the Hall County and city of Gainesville school systems, including a major renovation and new construction project at Gainesville Hill School that is well underway and a new Cherokee Bluff Middle School that is expected to open in 2022.
  • Growth and additions to our vibrant college community, including UNG’s plans for opening new buildings on what was once the Lanier Tech campus; Lanier Tech recording its highest student enrollment numbers ever, with huge success in dual enrollment programs with area high schools; and Brenau continuing to add course offerings, including a new physician’s assistant program.
  • Exciting construction projects in downtown Gainesville, with three massive developments that will bring a combination of residential and commercial growth around the square and completely change the city’s image.
  • Booming economic growth in South Hall, with new houses, apartments, retail and commercial space, manufacturing and warehouse facilities planned throughout the area.
  • Ongoing infrastructure efforts, including new and improved roads, bridges and improved parks and leisure areas.
  • Improvements under way in the public sector, including replacing a 1980s-era record keeping system with new technology for the county’s courts and the replacement of old vehicles for the county’s fire department.

We have become so accustomed to the success story that is Gainesville and Hall County that we often take for granted the many positive things that happen around us each year, but there are cities and counties across the nation with weak local economies and dying communities that would rejoice if any one of the things mentioned above were happening there.

It is a tribute to the success of economic development efforts with the support of the business community and political leadership that we can report that Amazon opened here, a Fox Factory manufacturing facility came to town, a Cottrell expansion was announced.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

This year’s Progress edition is perhaps a little more special than others in that it can chronicle so much good that is going on despite the challenges and communal despair of the past year. So many positive changes evident in the most trying of times can only bode well for what is possible when 2020 is a distant image in a more optimistic mirror.

There are still many problems to solve. We must manage all this growth while maintaining the quality of life that attracts people to our community. Leaders must plan well and keep in mind infrastructure needs. 

We also have those living in poverty who need help finding a way up the economic ladder; those without homes who need affordable housing. We have communities of immigrants who need help assimilating into the society of success. We have problems with drugs and crime. We have social issues to fix, and long existing inequities to address.

But as a community, we have the resources to do it, the financial underpinnings to find ways to make life better for all who call this area home. We have the community spirit and drive needed to make things happen, as well as the most precious commodity of all, an abundance of top quality people willing to put forth the effort.

We not only survived 2020 but made significant positive progress along the way, and having done that, we have to believe we can do just about anything. That’s the message you’ll find in this year’s Progress edition.

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