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What will 2009 bring?
We asked government, business leaders to give us their thoughts

Richard Davis, Mayor of Richmond Hill:

Hopefully the end of 2009 will bring us the completion of the new City Center. Sometime in the middle of the year, we should have the amphitheater in J.F. Gregory Park completed. We’re just moving right along and we try not to participate in the recession. I’m an eternal optimist. I know you hear a lot of bad things on the news about the national economy, but I look for it to turn around in the spring. I’ve lived a long life - I’ll be 74 soon - and history has shown that this country has the ability to rebound.


Jimmy Burnsed, Bryan County Commission Chairman/Bryan Bank & Trust CEO:

I think the economy of Bryan County in 2009 is going to be much better. We have seen the housing inventory come down in a positive way and no new ones built which bodes well for our total economy. I say that because housing affects everything from builders to sub contractors to restaurants – and the list goes on. An increase in that market will put a lot of people back in work mode. It may be mid to late spring until we see a surge, but the last 8 or 9 months of the year should do very well. The military buildup will begin this summer, which should give our economy a boost as well.


Tony Greeson, Pembroke city councilman:

In 2009, I would like to see the start of building a new fire station. I have been in contact with someone who is helping me put together a ‘skate fest’ for our skate park, and I believe council member Angela Reed is making plans for another ‘Pig Pickin’ festival. I would also like to see the purchase of an infrared camera for the fire department. I think it will be a great asset to the city as a whole in multiple ways.


Johnny Murphy, land developer:

Local business and economy will start heating up through spring/early summer. It should be healthy - nothing like what we’ve experienced in the past 10 years, but it should be positive growth and should help local businesses maintain their revenue. We should ride that out through 2010-2011 before getting back to aggressive growth.

Lamar Smith, developer:

On the housing side, it could be said that housing trends will lead you into a recession and housing will lead you out of a recession. When the housing market went down, it started this whole domino effect. Home builders nationally are the largest employers. I expect the market to pick up a bit at the end of the second to the beginning of the third quarter. Because of the tightening of local credit and the shortening of housing, I would look to see home prices start to escalate toward the middle of the year. Our area will recover faster than most other areas in the nation. Figure in the fact that the Fort Stewart troops will arrive in 16 to 18 months, and all that is going to combine into a rebound for the Savannah housing market.


Eddie Warren, Bryan County Board of Education Chairman:

I think 2009 will bring a turnaround in the economy. I think all the economic downturn will also force people to be a little bit wiser about their financial choices. I look for this area to see some growth in 2009. As far as the school board goes, I think we’ll have a good year with some good, positive changes. With fresh voices and new ideas, I see us only moving in a positive direction.


Floyd Hilliard, Richmond Hill City Councilman/Mayor Pro-Tem:

I think the economy will force the city of Richmond Hill to change their strategy a bit in 2009. In the past, we’ve had the luxury of sitting back and development coming to us. We’re going to have to diversify our thinking and initiate some marketing to make Richmond Hill more economically attractive. We’re also going to have to work with the county a lot more to get the attention of the state. I know the state is going to be short on money for grants and projects like the widening of Hwy. 144, and the squeaky wheel is going to get the grease. I think the state is keeping their ears open, and those who scream the loudest will be the ones who aren’t put on the backburner. I think 2009 will be a decent year but nothing to brag about. I’m hoping that 2008 was not the last year of lower taxes; we’re going to have to tighten belts for sure. I’m looking forward to the city elections. My seat and the mayor’s seat will both be up. I’ve been asked quite a few times to run for mayor, but it’s going to depend on what Richard does because I promised him I’d never run against him. If he doesn’t run, I think I could bring some exciting things to the table. It’s sweet and sour though because I really enjoy being on the council, and I risk the chance of not being here at all by running for mayor. We’ll see how it goes.


Wilson Pickett, builder:

For homes over $275,000, it’s not going to be pretty. There’s no real good viable market for that home price right now. The only bright spot we have is military growth in Fort Stewart. Soldiers are going to give us some good business for the $150,000 to $250,000 range. I also look for the rental business to continue to be strong.


Sallie Brewer, Bryan County Superintendent of Schools:

I would like for us to score higher on every test we take. I would like to increase our teacher retention rate because it’s easier for progress when we keep the same staff. We’ve held on to a rate of 92 percent thus far, but there’s always room for improvement. I would also like to see even more suggestions from parents and I urge them to use all the means of participation so that everyone’s opinions are represented.


Phil Jones, Bryan County Administrator:

I’m hoping to see a turn in the housing market and the economy. 2009 is shaping up to be a busy year for the county. The Belfast-Keller paving project will get underway and we will continue to work toward creating a Belfast-Keller interchange with federal and state officials. 2009 will see the grand opening of the new park on the south end while we should have the master plan back for Hendrix Park for review. Other ’09 projects include the paving of Conley Road on the north end and the start of construction of the new county complex. The new DFCS building should be completed by June.


Judy Cook, Mayor of Pembroke:

I think what is on most everyone’s mind is the economy. I am hopeful that it will turn around. It’s hard to predict what the new year will bring. I’m concerned about the unemployment rate, and this past year was one of the toughest budget years ever. Despite that, we still managed to get a lot of projects done. Overall, 2008 was pretty good. I hope that whatever stimulus the feds come up will trickle down to us. Usually smaller towns lose out to the bigger ones, but we’re exploring every avenue we have to let them know we have projects on the table and want to see them completed. We’re letting the right people know we want to be a player, and all we can do in the meantime is all work together.


Doug Goolsby, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s owner:

I hope 2009 will bring a better business year for us. We’re excited about the addition of Sunday alcohol sales, which has helped. I’d like to get all this school business behind us and continue to work hand in hand with the schools and the community. I would very much like to see more success with our sports and extracurricular programs – not just in wins and losses, but in terms of community support.


Jack Kingston, US Congressman:

I think the focus of Congress is going to be jobs and the economy and what we can do to get the job picture looking brighter. I think one philosophical question that is going to come up is ‘do you want more government and deficit spending or more tax breaks’ to create more jobs. America has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, which is sending jobs offshore. With a new president, his vision of government is going to be a little bit different than before, so we’ll just have to see how it plays out. I look to see more companies seeking a bailout in 2009. Once you say yes to one, more are certain to follow. On the local front, I know the cities and counties are strapped for funds as they are already looking for state and federal funding. Local, state and federal governments each have to pull themselves up a bit and try to pull their own weight because more government spending could lead to higher inflation, and that could have a negative effect on 2010. As for Bryan County specifically, Fort Stewart has millions of dollars of construction under works with a lot more troops on their way, which will be a tremendous help to the economy. With that in mind, I look to see the economy of coastal Georgia turn around faster than the rest of the state, which is one silver lining to all this.

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