It was a night of applauding the city's accomplishments and setting the vision for the upcoming year at the 2011-2012 State of the City address.
"This part of the county is being redeveloped and being looked at in a different way than in the past," said Mayor Bucky Johnson. "Last year was a big year for us in Norcross, and it set the stage for some really great things to happen."
Hosted in the state-of-the-art Hyundai Construction Equipment USA on Thursday evening, the event had many people "oohing" and "aahing" over the building's grandeur. Local songwriter Steve Stevens sang the city's theme song as an opener while playing the piano. And, as promised, no boring PowerPoint was forced upon the crowd. A projector was present, however, to show artistic films depicting the town.
The films, which were created by different local companies and videographers and chosen by Downtown Manager Tixie Fowler, captured the greateness of downtown's shops, its people, and the different festivals and activities.
Between the films, Johnson spoke of all the amazing things the city accomplished in 2011. If someone was ever in doubt that Norcross didn't do enough to better its city, that person better think again, because these items make up just a slice of the pie:
- The city adopted Smart Grid technology, which helps the community monitor electricity and is also the first of its kind in the entire country.
- Norcross annexed neighorhoods containing 4,000 to 5,000 people, in addition to more than 300 businesses including the Waffle House headquarters, CarMax, Pappadeaux and Global Mall.
- The Nest, the city's first arts incubator, was created, in addition to Home Norcross, another art space.
- Phase I of Norcross Police's Iron Sky surveillance system was installed.
- More than $200,000 was spent to improve water quality.
- Hyundai headquarters and FedEx Ground both moved to the city of Norcross, and RockTenn plans to expand.
- Gwinnett Village CID completed more than $216,000 worth of projects in 2011 inside the city and means to complete $9 million worth of projects in 2012, in addition to another $9 million in 2013.
The mayor also noted how the city has become bigger to the country, too. Norcross was mentioned in Forbes magazine, and the city will be featured in "Today in America" with Terry Bradshaw in the summer.
"We've been found out!" joked Johnson.
Last year was the third year in a row that the city was voted Best Downtown by Gwinnett Magazine, and the Gwinnett County Convention and Visitor's Bureau named the Norcross Arts Fest as Best Festival. Additionally, the mayor was voted "Man of the Year" and "Favorite Elected Official" by Gwinnett Magazine.
Of course, Norcross wouldn't be anything without its people, so noteworthy citizens who helped make 2011 a successful year were given proclamations.
Plaques were awarded to: Arlene Beckles, who is heavily involved in the Norcross Police Department and Norcross Arts Alliance and assists in safe routes for local schools; Kim Dorough and Ranae Heaven, who have helped raise fund arts and educations programs at local schools through the NAA and the Norcross Cluster Schools Partnership; Tom McDermott, who's responsible for Toys for Tots in 18 counties in the metro Atlanta area; Gene Ramsay and Edie Riehm, historians who helped write and compile "Images of America: Norcross" with Welcome Center Coordinator Cate Kitchen; and Connie Weathers, the chairwoman for the Sustainable Norcross Commission and who also helped lead the city to Gold Certification last year for making the community greener.
The SDS agreement was brought up, and the mayor explained how it will be financially beneficial in the upcoming years. He also urged voters to head to the polls July 31 for the Transportation Investment Act to help better not only local transportation, but businesses and jobs.
"I'm an Atlanta native, so I know that traffic used to be a lot better till you folks moved down here to the South," said the mayor, "so in trying to attract businesses and employers to the area and so forth ... it's not going to be the answer to all of it, but it's a great project."
As a tax that can help fund road projects around the region, said Johnson, the TIA would allow Norcross itself to gain approximately $250,000 a year for its own road projects.