FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County is well on its way to reaching half a million residents by 2047, according to Frank Norton, the CEO and chairman of The Norton Agency which specializes in North Georgia real estate.
Norton takes data from communities in northeast Georgia such as Forsyth County and compares and predicts future outcomes including population size, housing market and workforce.
About 10 years ago, Georgia Tech published a study that looked at metro Atlanta in 2050. By 2050, it said metro Atlanta will have 12.5 million people, about double what the population is today.
“As I’ve said for the last 10 years, Atlanta isn’t going to move to us, Atlanta is going to move through us,” Norton said. “If that’s the case, how do we in Forsyth County maintain the soul, spirit, connectivity we share and quality of life in our community?”
Norton said he looks at Forsyth County in stages, starting with its founding in the 1830s as an agricultural-based community until the 1970s.
When Lake Lanier was created, the county became a place to buy a second home and a recreational community.
It wasn’t until Ga. 400 was completed that the community moved into a bedroom phase where people flocked for quality of life, price of homes and a soon-to-be exceptional school system.
“We were North Atlanta’s community bedroom,” Norton said. “We were the affordable choice.”
Then from 1975 to today, the county decided to step up as a vibrant business player in all of metro Atlanta, including the technology and service medical industries.
It wasn’t until 1980 that population boomed in Forsyth County. From 1980 to 1990, the county saw a 60 percent growth rate. Then from 1990 to 2010, the growth rate rose to 77.4 percent.
But so far from 2010 to 2017, the growth rate has dropped to 44.2 percent, which Norton speculates will remain steady until 2047.
From that data, Norton anticipates the county population will rise from about 230,000 currently, to about 270,000 in 2022 and 495,000 in 2047. In 1990, the population was 44,000 and it jumped to 175,000 in 2010.
However, if the county keeps up the 77 percent growth rate that it had from 1990-2010, the population could end up around 720,000, but Norton doesn’t anticipate that. That’s the size of Gwinnett County, which is double the geographic size of Forsyth County.
“It’ll temper based on what’s happening in the national economy,” Norton said. “But momentum of growth is already in our way. Whether our elected leaders put up a wall, there will still be industries that will hop over and you will grow.”
Another significant transformation has been the median home value.
It went from $155,000 in 1990 to just over $300,000 currently, and Norton anticipates it will climb to $626,000 in 2047.
Norton stressed the importance of affordable housing and said if the trends stay where they are now, not many people will be able to afford living in Forsyth County.
“We are going to grow,” Norton said. “If we run this county the same way we did in 1990, we might as well be the state of Georgia. We will lose our identity and the humanness of Forsyth County.”