I am writing to you in support of Spaceport Camden.
I was in the commercial real estate business in Atlanta for 35 years before moving to St. Simons in 2001.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment I had to make was the transition from a very dynamic job growth economy in Atlanta to a pretty much weak job growth economy in Coastal Georgia, which includes Camden County.
I remember only too well back in 1970 when Western Electric located at the corner of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 in Gwinnett County. At that time Gwinnett was a sleepy little community with not much going on. The 2,500 jobs that Western Electric created was the catalyst to a major economic boom in Gwinnett that continues to today.
My family is a major land owner (and taxpayer) in Camden County and, thus, I have a personal stake in Camden’s future. What Camden needs (as does all the other coastal counties) are more jobs. If a community is not growing then it is dying.
What effect did Western Electric have on Gwinnett County? My friend, Elliott Brack editor and publisher of Gwinnett Forum, explains:
• “It was the first big industry for the county, showing the Atlanta area that Gwinnett could compete for major industry.
• It brought to the community many brilliant minds, people with good education, who wanted and demanded an improved education for their children.
• It was the first big firm to become a ‘high technology’ business, eventually spawning many major technical advances. (Fiber optics was patented out of the Norcross Bell Labs office.)
• It led to Gwinnett being able to tie into the sewer basin serving DeKalb County, which gave Gwinnett time to attract other industries prior to the formation of its own sewer system for the area.
• Its location led to the beginning of the Gwinnett Fire District, which eventually spread throughout the county, giving all Gwinnett homeowners lower insurance rates.
• Western Electric helped jump start the homebuilding business in the county, with its workers demanding high quality homes. The Forest Hills section of Lawrenceville especially benefitted, but so also did contractors throughout the county.
• Western Electric came at the start of the big growth spurt in the county, which meant shoppers could find more supermarkets (and eventually, more stores and even malls) closer to their homes.
• You might make the case that Western Electric eventually brought more movie theaters!
• It also led to the expansion of the Gwinnett Water and Sewer Authority.
• Western Electric helped to stabilize the fledging Gwinnett water system, which now had a big commercial customer in Norcross, and soon other industries moved here, giving it an even large base of operations.
• Gwinnett never had to declare bankruptcy of its water system, since Western Electric helped stimulate its financial stability.
• Many Western Electric workers transferring to Gwinnett were members of the Catholic church. This contributed immensely to the growing Catholic population in Gwinnett, now its second largest church.
• It took 12-14 years, but the location of newcomers from Western Electric, and the eventual growth in the county population, paved the way for a change from Democratic political domination to the arrival of a strong Republican Party, in 1984 and since.”
I applaud Steve Howard and the Camden Board of Commissioners for the vision and guts to make Space Port Camden a reality. When Space Port Camden happens (and it will happen) it will create much excitement and opportunity not only for Camden County but all the Georgia coastal counties and the State of Georgia as well.
After Western Electric was announced Gwinnett County put in big bold letters on a large water tank on I-85 “GWINNETT IS GREAT”. I look forward to seeing on I-95 “CAMDEN IS GREAT”.
St. Simons Island, Georgia