The headline could have easily read,” Social media comes to Social Circle.”
When Facebook announced in March that it would construct a data center on 400 acres in the Stanton Springs development in eastern Newton County, it was not lost on people where the social media giant’s mailing address would be - Social Circle.
The city’s mayor, Hal Dally, said his city is ready for any attention and growth the county’s newest company might bring.
“If you look around our future land use plan, if you add the territory for the joint mega-site we’ve got with Newton County and all of the property we’ve got that we’ve got future land use planned, it’s about 6,000 acres for industrial development” he said.
As a city split between two counties, Dally said Social Circle is also ready for any influx of residents that new business will bring.
“All of the subdivisions that stalled have started back up. Even during the recession, we continued to grow,” he said, “We had people coming in and buying the older houses and rehabbing those. We’re the second fastest growing city in Walton County. We don’t have a lot of residents in the Newton County side yet, but that will come later as that side continues to develop and those industries come in along I-20.
“I think the last number we had from the census we were about 4,500 right now. By 2020, we hope we’re pushing 5,000 people.”
Gearing up for the anticipated growth, Social Circle is preparing to increase staff to serve its new residents. Dally said the city just opened its second fire station.
“We’ve got it in our strategic plan to increase staffing for customer service, police, fire, in city hall and work crews,” he said, “You’ve got to figure out how many you can add, get them paid for and not be abusive on taxes. We also have infrastructure needs and we’re working on those. We’re making a lot of progress”
Like other cities in Newton County, Social Circle has a rich history. Dally said along with smart growth, his city is dedicated to maintaining its historic downtown area.
“One of the main goals is to keep the downtown historic district intact. The goal is to make this a walkable, livable downtown - restaurants, unique shops - and we’re gaining ground on that,” he said, “The original town, all of it’s a National Historic District.
“The people who are coming in here want to have walkable, livable. We’ve got golf cart access all over downtown. We’re building sidewalks everywhere.”
While Social Circle’s listed population is around 4,500, Dally said the city’s daytime population could climb as high as 6,500 as people come in to work at one of the many businesses like Standridge Color Corp., Goodyear or General Mills already located there.
Dally said the city’s school system is also preparing to expand. The city currently operates primary, elementary, middle and high schools.
”We’ve already got the next 30 acres purchased for the primary and elementary replacement. What is now the elementary school will become the middle school,” he said,” We’ve got capacity now for 2,000 students. We’re at about 1,800. That expansion will take us to 2,600-2,800 students.”
Looking five years down the road, Dally sees continued growth for Social Circle.
“If the economy holds where we are right now and things continue to move, we’ll have four or five more big industries in town,” he said, “There are 2,000 jobs in Social Circle right now with a population of about 4,500. Forty-eight percent of the industry by dollar value in the 2010 census in Walton County was located in Social Circle. We want to continue that trend.
“We’re in a good position. They can’t move the railroad, they can’t move the expressway. We’re 45 minutes from Atlanta. We’re the only available expressway outside of Atlanta that hasn’t been developed. And hopefully, we’ll do it right, we’ll do it smart.”
Along with optimism about Social Circle, Dally offered this about the region.
“All of the cities in Newton County are working together. All of the cities in Walton County are working together and Newton and Walton are talking to each other now.
“If we all work together and do this thing the right way, we’ll have a region that people want to come to and industries want to locate in. We can provide quality education and a workforce that they need for continuance for their business.”