Writer: Roger Nielsen
Athens’ vibrant downtown generates $290 million annually in goods and services and contributes significantly to the regional economic engine, according to a study the Institute of Government prepared for the Athens Downtown Development Authority.
The ADDA commissioned the economic impact assessment to quantify the proportion of Athens-Clarke County’s economic output generated in the downtown business core and adjacent areas that are part of ADDA’s expanded service area. The review incorporated employment, wage income, value added to the economy and total economic output attributable to the ADDA’s original service area in central Athens and a larger area approved by Georgia General Assembly.
Abutting the University of Georgia, the ADDA’s expanded service area serves as a regional destination for visitors, employees and UGA students. It supports the equivalent of 3,100 full-time employees and houses 91 service businesses, 91 restaurants and bars, 63 shops and stores, 15 theaters and clubs and six full-service hotels with two more under construction.
Those figures, and the recent growth in student-oriented housing downtown, reflects the area’s economic health, according to faculty member Wes Clarke, who conducted the assessment. “The combination of businesses and attractions in the ADDA service area, the university and the surrounding areas makes downtown Athens an economic engine for the region,” he said.
In addition to a written report, the Institute developed an oversize tri-fold brochure summarizing the findings.
The material will supplement ADDA’s work to attract new businesses downtown and demonstrate to area decision-makers that downtown is an economic powerhouse, according to David Lynn, ADDA director of planning and outreach. “It shows that downtown is not just a theme park for students, but it’s a great place to do business, too,” he said.