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Berg gives constituents update on county progress
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County Commission Chair Mike Berg gave a very bright outlook for Dawson County during his annual State of the County address last week at the chamber of commerce's monthly luncheon.

Berg's presentation ranged from new businesses, to new residents to even potential tax reduction in the near future.

"As I'm sure you've read in the paper, there are a lot of new businesses coming to Dawson County," Berg said. "If you look at [Hwy.] 400 and that corridor, Kroger has already announced its new 124,000 square foot Super Kroger, a new power center and another ‘big box' [retail] going behind [John Megel Chevrolet."

Across from that, another grocery store will be anchoring a 6-store center, according to Berg.

"All of those stores are already leased, and they haven't even broken ground on that complex yet. There's huge development going on in the [Hwy. 400] area."

He also mentioned four new restaurants looking at the area.

"We've already got Burger and Shake looking at the area, as well as Culver's, which is a chain in the Midwest, which will be their first store in Georgia. I've personally talked to Panera Bread and we've had inquiries from Chili's."

Also coming to Dawson County is MESH Engineering, a firm that designs, builds and services industrial processes and equipment.

"It's a lot easier to bring people in when there are businesses already coming in and building," Berg said. "We should be proud of what is happing in Dawson County."

Berg said the county is expecting more than 500 new jobs added and $100 million worth of business will be added thanks to development.

"We have great folks in this county and we've got enough business in this county to keep it going, but about 80 percent of the people that live in this county work out of the county," he said.

"Because of this, our unemployment rate is very low. As of May, we are at 5.2 percent unemployment, which is second in our region of 13 counties. We are proud of the fact that we have a low unemployment rate."

Berg also talked about the approaching boom of "Millennials."

"The younger generation is looking to get away from the ‘downtown crowd' but still want the Internet connection, restaurants and other activities. We are leading the state in those prospects," he said.

With the younger crowd comes a housing boom, according to Berg.

"If you look at the amount of housing we have left, there's not much of that left. Sooner rather than later, we're going to see these bigger developments coming in to put in more houses," he said.

But this isn't something the citizens of the county should worry about, Berg said. More incoming residents and businesses actually means better taxes for current residents.

"It's going to be important for tax payers to understand that, as more business and sales tax comes in, their property tax remains the same," he said. "We haven't raised the millage since I've been chairman for 11 years now. We've stayed steady at 8.138 mills."

The reason behind the stable millage rate is because of the unusual way the county's finances operate.

"We are a sales tax-based county. Most counties rely on property taxes for their revenue, but not Dawson County," Berg said. "From 2009 to 2013, we lost about 36.5 percent of our property tax base. It was only through [budget management] that we were able to keep providing the services needed."

However, Berg said that he hopes that, within the next few years, the millage can go down.

"By 2017, maybe 2018, the businesses coming here will allow us, as the board of commissioners, to not only roll back our increase in millage, but also to reduce our millage rate," he said. "Since we are a sales tax county, this will allow us to take a good look at the millage and hopefully reduce it."