Community leaders are both hopeful and hesitant after hearing a north Georgia real estate forecaster say he expects the county's population to quadruple in the next 15 years.
"Our plan has always been to have 50,000 folks in 2030," said Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg.
Renowned across the region for his economic predictions, Frank Norton said he believes Dawson County's population will rocket to 100,000 people by 2030, thanks to ease of travel to Atlanta along Ga. 400 and the current growth in Forsyth County that's going to continue north.
"They're growing at the rate of some 9-10 thousand people a year, and they're next door," he said speaking at a Dawson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
Norton said communities like Dawson County must focus on development that will drive the economy to stay ahead of the growth.
"I agree with Frank that we need to make sure we have a proper vision for the future and we have the infrastructure to serve," Berg said. We do have a good commercial base. I'd rather see the commercial piece that brings in the tax base than the residential piece that takes away from the infrastructure."
General Manager Brooke Anderson said Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has been working for years in preparation for such anticipated growth.
"When you look at the population today of 22,000 people, some people have a hard time visualizing 50,000, which is twice as many as what we have today," he said. "With the work we've done on Russell Creek Reservoir, we have projected a population out to 2063, and we're projecting based on that a population of Dawson County at 115,000 people."
Hearing that Norton's numbers are similar in scope to the authority's predictions, Anderson said it shows that Etowah is planning properly.
"But it's also a bit intimidating, because it could be a larger number than what we're planning for," he said. "I think it's incumbent upon the authority to always be vigilant in not only looking at what our next answer is, but as we're developing that answer, what is the next opportunity beyond that."
Charlie Auvermann, director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, believes the county is positioned well for the growth Norton said is coming this way.
"Frank always has a tremendous amount of data to back up his observations, and I think he's spot-on on what he's saying," he said, adding that Dawson County's access to high-speed fiber is a plus for the community.
"I think we're incredibly fortunate that several years ago we got the North Georgia Network fiber system. People don't realize that today, we can get the same capacity, right here today, that Google is promising Atlanta three years from now.
"I look very much forward to the growth and I think we're well-positioned to manage that."
With the growth, there are also issues that local realtors and home shoppers are already experiencing.
"We don't have enough homes. People are looking for homes in every price point and it when a good property comes available and it's priced correctly, boom, it's off the market," said Kristi Myers, a local real estate agent.