If you haven't already done so, now is the time to raise your hand and be counted. Get that 2010 census form off the kitchen table and into the mailbox.
From determining the amount of tax dollars available to areas based on their populations to forming business strategies for private companies, the numbers compiled by the census every 10 years plays an integral part in shaping how communities develop and prosper.
Population projections are used as the basis for decisions made by both the public and private sector on a daily basis, and an underreporting of the number of people who live in a certain area can have a dramatically negative impact on a community.
The numbers compiled by the census form the basis for projections that determine when and where schools are to be built; how much public money communities are eligible to receive for a host of tax-supported projects and programs; and the level of need for certain social and entitlement programs.
The census also plays a major role in determining how the political process works. Population numbers generated by the census are used to draw the boundaries for political districts at the local and state level, as well as determining how many members of Congress each state will have.
The problem for any community and especially those with a steady track record of growth like those in the North Georgia area in recent years is that inaccurate census data hangs around as a statistical black cloud for 10 years.
Nationwide there has been a push to have more people complete the shortened and simplified 2010 census form. Justified protests that the questionnaire for 2000 was unnecessarily intrusive resulted in a reduction in the amount of data being gathered for 2010, and completion of the form should take less than 10 minutes.
So far, residents of Hall and surrounding counties have been diligent about returning the census questionnaire sent to each household. As of last week, about 66 percent of Hall County' households had returned the form, compared to 67 percent in Habersham, 65 percent in Lumpkin, 64 percent in Dawson, 66 percent in Jackson and 63 percent in White.
In the city of Gainesville, response was not quite as strong, with 58 percent having responded.
It is especially important in Hall County that the Hispanic population, almost certainly undercounted in previous years, be accurately reflected in this year's census numbers.
A decade ago, only 72 percent of Hall households completed the questionnaire. The return rate needs to be even higher this year, considering all the things that ride on an accurate count.
Take the time. The potential payoff for the community is certainly worth the effort required to stand up and be counted.