Does Gwinnett’s Development Policy Work?

One of the few arguments I hear in favor of the subsidization of the Gwinnett Braves stadium is that Gwinnett’s active economic development policy has allowed Gwinnett to prosper. There is no doubt that Gwinnett County is much wealthier today than it was many years ago, and it is one of the wealthier counties in the area. Is this the product of county’s development policy, or does the growth reflect the success of Atlanta?

This is simple to test by comparing Gwinnett County’s median household income to the average median household income of all other Atlanta MSA counties. If Gwinnett’s development policies are superior to other counties’ policies, then it’s changes in income should deviate from the others in a positive direction. The graph below shows the growth over time.


It is hard to imagine the relationship being much tighter than this. However, because these numbers are so big, it is difficult to spot deviations. The following graph maps the percent-change in median household income from year to year.

% change

From 1980–present, the average non-Gwinnett Atlanta MSA growth in median household income has averaged 4.58%, compared to Gwinnett’s average growth rate of 3.87%. Thus, it appears that Gwinnett’s growth is similar to other metro-Atlanta counties, and it certainly has not been superior to its neighbors in producing wealth for Gwinnett residents.

If you would like further information about the Gwinnett Braves stadium deal, the information is now available on the Gwinnett County website. It’s good to see government fully disclosing the information a month after the decision has been made.

5 Responses “Does Gwinnett’s Development Policy Work?”

  1. Household income is the wrong metric to track here. Far more than half of Gwinnett county residents work outside of the county, so therefore the vast majority of the household income will be directly related to that of the entire Metro area.

    Gwinnett’s development strategy is not really geared towards increasing household income, it is geared towards increasing business development within the county. Before the Gwinnett Place Mall in 1984, there was pretty much nothing to do (or money to spend) in Gwinnett. Since then, there have been major shopping areas (Discover Mills, Mall of Georgia), major attractions (Gwinnett Arena) and more all towards increasing the intra-county spending.

    A better graph would be to track county sales tax receipts against other Atlanta counties. I think Gwinnett would be superior over the past 20 years.

  2. JC says:

    MHHI is not the “wrong” metric. It is one metric for measuring the wealth of Gwinnett County residents. The fact that many residents work outside of Gwinnett does not make it perfect, but if there is wealth being generated by public policy (the reason you want development is to create wealth) it should manifest itself in this metric.

    Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I am getting pretty damn tired of being the only person around to look at the numbers on the subject. I write an Op-Ed in the AJC using the county’s most-optimistic numbers, and the Commissioners don’t have the guts to dispute them. My critics can do nothing but pull out anecdotes. For every mall someone says wouldn’t be built I can counter the story that this was the inevitable product of Atlanta’s growth.

  3. Frank says:

    Sales tax data will be problematic b/c pop growth has differed across counties as Atlanta has grown outward. Gwinnett has probably had faster sales tax growth than Fulton but slower than Forsyth. This has nothing to do with Gwinnett’s development policy (or Fulton or Forsyth for that matter).

  4. Sorry for the late reply.

    The reason I’m not digging into the numbers it is immaterial to the discussion. Gwinnett County has a “strategy” that is the overarching goal behind this and most other big decisions that the County Commission makes. This stadium is part of their strategy, and negative revenue consequences are immaterial. The commissioners don’t really care if it is revenue negative as long as it fits in with the strategy. They just need to make it seem revenue neutral in order to justify it to voters, who seem to react more to tactical decisions rather than strategic.

    To summarize: I’m not saying that the stadium is revenue positive or neutral, I’m saying that county revenue from the stadium doesn’t matter. Does that make sense?

    If you continue down the line in saying that the Gwinnett County Commission’s development strategy is ineffective or not worth outlays such as the stadium, you can do that, and you may be right. However, at that point the argument is so divorced from Baseball that it probably isn’t very useful for this particular forum.

  5. Don Shaw says:

    JC- It is only fools that are blinded by the county on this issue. For one who has a copy of the contract and the feasibilty study I know the truth along with you.

    Section nine and ten in the contract with the Braves clearly states that the revenue gained fromthe stadium can ony be used to pay DEBT Service ( no principle) and all extra must go into the Capital Reserve Fund to enhance the stadium. There is no way to get the moneyt back to the Recreation Fund ( $17,000,000) that was stolen from us nor is there a viable way to pay off the $33,000,000 bonds. The study estimates 15 million in economic impact and that is only $300,000 per year in additional taxes. Npw we add the estimated car rental tax income that was miscalculated since they included all of Gwinnett County in the $600,000 revenue when the3 tax is only in unincorporated Gwinnett.

    I do agree with Erik that this is not just a “baseball” thing but is a much larger scale of fruad committed by all of the BOC’s. We may have a large geographic area of parks but we have inferior facilities when compare to other areas.

    This entire concept was started to get more baseball fields for the youth in Gwinnett while creating a Coopers Town concept to bring economic impact to the area. So what took place was just one stadium for the Braves to make about $1.5m per year and let the youth suffer in the county.

    JC, keep on the subject, one day the truth will come out.