ATHENS, Ga. — The Oconee County Commission approved phase two of the Epps Bridge Shopping Center yesterday. Now, you will see almost double the number of stores that you already shop at.

Development officials claimed that the approval of phase two is directly related to Oconee County’s economic success. Oconee County has the lowest economic distress number out of every single county in Georgia, with  a score of 1.6.

That statistic means that Oconee County is more economically productive than over 98 percent of counties in all of the United States, which is a drastic difference compared to surrounding counties in the state of Georgia.

Oconee County Director of Economic Development J.R. Charles believed Oconee’s economic success began with a strong foundation in the 1960s, and it prospered upwards from that exact moment because of three influential things — good planning, vision, and leadership.

The Economic Innovation Group created an interactive map that calculates all of the Georgia counties’ economic distress levels, and Oconee’s economic distress is so low that you can easily pick it out by the dark green color it is associated with it. This interactive map clearly showcases just how above par this county’s economy is.

“Oconee is a very, very special place,” Charles said. “It has the stability that comes with being nestled just outside of Athens-Clarke County and the university; it has people that own businesses that were resilient and could weather the storm; and it is in a good place from its planning perspective that as the economy approves, the county will improve with it.”

Although development officials believed phase two of the Epps Bridge Shopping Center is a great step in the right direction for Oconee County’s economy, there are more economic development projects that will take place in the future. There will eventually be a Gateway Technology Business Park, which is a part of the Georgia Power’s Concept Plan that will focus on recruiting new industry into the county.

A highway 316 transportation assessment, which is a cooperative study with Barrow County to analyze traffic patterns and create a development plan for traffic mitigation. In addition to that, the highway 316 transportation assessment would also bring more traffic to the Epps Bridge Shopping Center, especially on game days.

The current projects, which include phase two of Epps Bridge, the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir, and Mars Hill Road Expansion, still have a ways to go before Oconee moves onto the future projects. However, development officials have already established a plan to maintain Oconee’s economic success.

By Kaitlin Long

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