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Experts: south Fulton poised for residential, commercial growth
by Noreen Cochran
February 26, 2014 12:40 PM | 1508 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mercer University economist Roger Tutterow at the South Metro Development Outlook conference last week in College Park predicted metro Atlanta in 2014 will continue its journey to a pre-recession “normal.”

“There is nothing to suggest that 2014 will be anything other than a sixth year of economic expansion,” he said about indicators like consumer confidence, gross domestic product and a monthly index from New York-based think tank The Conference Board.

Even with GDP growth at 3.2 percent, the economy still has to cross two “thresholds” before regaining 2007’s momentum, Tutterow said.

One is the amount of equity in homeowners’ property; the other is the number of employed residents, which he said is returning to 2007 levels.

“We’re adding jobs faster than the national average,” Tutterow said.

He said job seekers from other states will relocate in greater numbers to the metro area, including the Southern Crescent – of which south Fulton and Henry counties are part – as it is becoming “a hub” for film and television companies.

When newcomers arrive, they will be securing loans for new homes more easily than in the last six years, at interest rates not likely to rise for at least a year, Tutterow said.

“The bank of today wants to make loans. It’s a borrower’s market if you can qualify,” he said.

Another economic indicator is the number of permits issued for new home construction, a figure which plunged 34 percent during the recession.

“We’re going to see those home starts and home sales come roaring back,” Tutterow said.

While Tutterow forecast upswings for the entire metro Atlanta area, panelists who followed his presentation said south metro is hampered by a public relations problem.

“The south side has been ignored,” said Vaughn Irons of Asset Property Disposition Solutions. “A lot of that is more perception than reality.”

Kevin Kern of Grove Street Partners warned against attracting developers only to have them frustrated by City Hall.

“You have to get your government house in order to be able to handle the volume of new business,” he said about site plan reviews, rezoning and building permits, which he called “all the different things that make developers go crazy.”

David Ellis of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association agreed.

“Nothing quells momentum like a lousy permitting process,” he said. “It smothers any enthusiasm to get the ball rolling.”

East Point Mayor Jannquell Peters, an earlier panelist, said after the conference she will be working with department heads and the city council to improve the city’s relationships with developers.

“We’re taking a look at all our operations to make sure we can streamline any process we can and to update anything we can,” she said, “and with the new administration, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to show that we are open for business.”

As an entrepreneur prior to taking office in January, Peters said she found the city “not difficult” to deal with but noticed room for improvement.

“There are challenges we’re looking forward to addressing and ensuring the process is easy,” she said.

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