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Norton discusses the future in 30th annual economic forecast
I-Norton Forecast pic
Frank K. Norton, Jr., chief executive officer of Norton Holdings, speaks during the annual Norton Native Intelligence Forecast last week at the Gainesville Civic Center. - photo by Erin O. Smith DCN regional staff

During Frank Norton Jr.'s annual Native Intelligence report Thursday night, the Gainesville real estate executive touched on a diverse range of topics. Among the issues, he discussed the lack of affordable housing and criticized what he described as over-regulation by local government.

"Sometimes, we feel we're the lone cry in the wilderness," Norton told the group of hundreds at the Gainesville Civic Center. "For 10 years, Norton Native Intelligence has been sounding warnings of over-regulations, excessive impact and utility fees and an anti-business mindset amongst state, city and county governments ... the unintended consequence is that it is driving businesses away and frustrates the hell out of those that stay."

Andy Stewart, vice president of commercial lending at Peach State Bank & Trust, said he's been coming to the presentation of the annual Native Intelligence report for nearly a decade.

"Frank (Norton) is a master at studying the analytics and trends," Stewart said. "I think this is the equivalent of a local economic state of the union, and anybody with a vested interest in our community needs to see the trends, as well as the reviews, that Frank provides in this forum."

Other topics addressed during the event included the lack of affordable housing.

"Perhaps one of the most serious issues facing us today ... for us in America and northeast Georgia, is a rapidly diminishing stock of affordable housing," Norton said. "The absence of affordable, livable, personal-owned homes would create further disparity between the haves and the have nots."

He cited American homeownership rates which he said peaked in 2006 at 67 percent that now have dropped to 63 percent, "meaning 4 million people have moved in this country from homeowner to tenant."

According to the report, North Georgia's "affordable and habitable stick-built homes that are priced under $175,000 could evaporate by 2020," while condos and multifamily townhomes in that price range for purchase "will evaporate by 2023."

In addition, Norton discussed at length the importance of investing in the Millennial generation.

Other aspects of the report included the mention of several milestones over the past year for the northeast Georgia area, including Northeast Georgia Health System's expansion to Dawsonville.

In closing, Norton said "we are all in this together. There should not be division amongst race, religion or economic strata. It is about living in North Georgia and living well in North Georgia. The real story of America is about people taking risks, trying new options, failing, succeeding and doing it all over again."

Norton will be in Dawsonville Feb. 11 to speak to members of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce.