Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, spoke to the Rotary Club of Canton on Tuesday about the impact of the economic recession has had on the region and how a growth in the region's population will force leaders to make changes in its planning.
"Even though the stock market is back up from its low point in 2009 ... the region is still suffering," he said.
Georgia, Krautler said, leads the nation in the number of bank failures and continues to be among the top states with high foreclosure rates.
Between 2008 and 2009, the state lost roughly 130,000 jobs. Cherokee County, he said, lost 3,300 jobs.
However, Krautler said, metro Atlanta is second to Dallas as the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country.
The 10-county region, which includes Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Rockdale, Henry, Clayton and Fayette Counties, grew by 24,000 people last year. Cherokee alone added 2,900 additional people to its population.
Krautler estimated that metro Atlanta has about 5.3 million in its 20-county region. That number is expected to grow to 8 million by 2040.
With the growth, Krautler said the metro area will see an older, more diverse population.
A significant amount of baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, will be alive when their children begin to retire, he said.
By 2030, Krautler said, 20 percent of metro Atlanta's population will be 64 and older and a half-million of those people will be 80 and older.
The metro region, he added, is one of two metro areas in the country that has seen a steady increase in the number of Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans moving to the area.
To meet the demands of an aging population, Krautler said many cities will have to design new communities to meet the needs of the older adults.
The ARC's Lifelong Communities initiative, which seeks to transform the region into communities in which residents can live throughout their lives, can help newer developments meet this goal, Krautler said.
The region's transportation an water woes continue to plague the minds of planners, Krautler said.
The director said the metro Atlanta region is the only one that depends on a small water supply. The region relies on the Chattahoochee River, Lake Lanier and the Coosa River Basin for its water supply.
Metro Atlanta's population boom has forced the state into a water dispute with Alabama and Florida.
Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled last year it was illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw from Lake Lanier to meet the water needs for metro Atlanta residents.
The judge also gave the states three years to come up with a water-sharing plan.
Krautler said if no agreement is put into place, he said the water supply to metro Atlanta would be affected.
"Water is truly our lifeblood and the key to our future economically," he said, adding that conservation would eventually become part of metro Atlanta residents' daily routine.
He also said the passage of a bill that would allow regions to vote on a 1-percent sales tax to fund transportation projects was a step in solving the area's transportation crisis.
The state would be divided into 12 regions and local officials in each region would come up with a list of transportation projects and the 1 percent tax that voters could approve in a referendum. The first referendum could be held in 2012, Krautler said.
Krautler said the tax is expected to generate $7.8 billion over the next 10 years in the region. Georgia isn't the only state to rely on sales tax revenue for transportation projects, he said.
Denver, Colo., Charlotte, N.C., and Seattle, Wash., all uses a sales tax for their transportation needs.
With the woes its facing, Krautler said the region will "continue to grow, but it must grow differently than it has in the past."
Rotarians Dennis Burnette and Kim Loesing agreed.
Burnette, president and CEO of Cherokee Bank, and Ms. Loesing, program director for MUST Cherokee, said both the transportation and water situations were troubling.
"It's something that'll affect us all," Ms. Loesing said of the tri-state water battle and its impact on local residents.
Burnette said the transportation issues will have to be tackled as Cherokee and other counties continue to grow.
"A growing county like Cherokee has huge infrastructure needs to sustain that growth," he said.