Lawmakers Struggle with
Garden Parkway: Driving JOBS for Gaston!
Last week we received the news that the N.C. Turnpike Authority received federal approval of the Garden Parkway Route. This news gives the Authority the approval to move forward with obtaining construction permitting and finalizing the project's plan of finance. This is great news for Gaston County and for our future. As you know, the Garden Parkway has been an economic development priority for the Gaston Regional Chamber. The Parkway remains the number one transportation priority as identified by the Transportation Advisory Council for the Gaston Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization and has unanimous support from the Gaston County Economic Development Commission.
Transportation infrastructure has long been the driving force behind economic development. As examples, the seaports in NY, LA, Boston and Charleston; the river ports and railroads of St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Memphis; the highways in Texas, New Jersey and California and the airport in Charlotte, are areas that have seen economic growth as a result of the ease of movement of people and goods.
The Charlotte MSA has been one of the five fastest growing metro areas with a population of over 1 million. From 1980 to 2012, all other counties in the area have had annual growth ranging from 3.5-6.2% and Gaston County had less than .9%. Annual employment growth has exceeded 4% but in Gaston County it was negative. Dr. John Connaughton states that Gaston County has been retarded by its limited connectivity to Charlotte. That is important because Charlotte is the growth engine that has driven the region's prosperity. Connaughton estimates that Gaston County will have 18,000 more jobs by 2035, if the Garden Parkway is built, than it would if it is not built. This does not include any impact from the planned intermodal facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. It also does not include the 2,667 temporary jobs during the 4 year construction period.
Gaston County's slow growth continues to have negative implications: high unemployment; educational attainment lags; fewer retail and entertainment options; and higher property tax rates. Completion of the Garden Parkway will open the southern third of Gaston County to development and growth. It will also cut travel times to uptown Charlotte and the airport by up to 30 minutes.
The Gaston Regional Chamber's mission is to "champion an environment for healthy economic growth and quality job creation." The Garden Parkway will help with that mission and provide Gaston County with economic benefits that will drive the economy for Gaston's future!
Originally Published on 3/11/12 by the Gaston Gazette