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Posted: October 9, 2012 9:08 p.m.

Housing update, political forum Thurs.

The Newton County Home Builders Association wants to revitalize Newton County and come up with solutions to get it out of housing slump and back on a path to prosperity, so the association's Executive Officer Genevieve Compton is putting a new twist on the standard political forum.

Instead of a simple Q&A, Compton invited two housing experts to give presentations about the state of the local housing market and economy, which will be followed by local county candidates being asked for their future vision of the county and how they plan to get there.
The event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Newton High School, 140 Ram Drive, Covington. The event is free, but registration is required and can be done at 2012beyond.eventbrite.com. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-serve basis, Compton said. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Elliot Eisenberg, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, and Frank Norton, a North Georgia real estate expert and president of The Norton Agency, will give their take on what Newton County can expect. Each will speak for about 40 minutes.

Compton said both men will be able to give a Newton County perspective because they've been gathering local data and talking to local officials.

"(Norton's) basically doing a model just for Newton County, that will show the trends and forecast where we're possibly going to go," Compton said. "This will be a very, very local perspective."

Compton said she wants the presentations to be not only an upscale event for Newton County residents, but a way to kick start discussion about how to build a better county.

"We got together with a lot of leaders in Newton County, and we were trying to find a way to re-energize officials and to get a group of people here to agree to get some of the foreclosure properties on the market and get people to say this is a place to live," Compton said. "(Discussion) really jumpstarted with Baxter (International) coming here."

Following the presentations, this year's county political candidates will be asked three questions a piece:

•What does our future look like and how are we going to get there?

•How can we capitalize on the arrival of Baxter International?

•How can we draw new residents and business to Newton County?

Candidates for county chairman, sheriff, school board district 2, county commission district 3 and county commission district 5 have been invited. Each candidate will be given one minute to answer each question. The speakers will become the moderators.

"How are we going to make Newton County a little bit better, attract future business, maintain what we have, revitalize the county and get us back on map and into a better financial situation?" Compton said. "Everybody felt a tremendous downtown in the economy, and we're trying to turn around the economy ourselves and not waiting. We want to put a magnifying glass on the county and see where we can help."

Compton said 200 people had signed up as of Monday. For those who don't register, there may still be a few seats available the night of the event.

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