Rowen sets goal for involving small, minority- and women-owned businesses

Gwinnett County officials plan to transform 2,000 acres of rural land near Ga. 316 into a hub for jobs and research focused on agriculture, medicine and the environment. (Courtesy of Rowen Foundation)

caption arrowCaption
Gwinnett County officials plan to transform 2,000 acres of rural land near Ga. 316 into a hub for jobs and research focused on agriculture, medicine and the environment. (Courtesy of Rowen Foundation)

The organization managing one of the state’s largest economic development projects has pledged to involve small businesses and those owned by women and minorities.

The 2,000-acre development known as Rowen is planned for rural land along Ga. 316 near Dacula in eastern Gwinnett County. Billed as a “knowledge community,” the job and research hub will focus on agriculture, medicine and the environment.

County officials and stakeholders expect Rowen to create more than 18,000 jobs by 2035, though it could take more than 60 years to reach full build-out. The Rowen Foundation, a nonprofit created to oversee the project, is now in the midst of creating a coalition of partners to lay down the groundwork.

The foundation announced that it set a goal that 30% of all funds spent on relationships with contractors and vendors will go toward small, minority- and women-owned businesses. So far, Rowen has worked with more than 20 companies and is exceeding its 30% goal, said Mason Ailstock, president of the foundation.

“Rowen’s goals simply cannot be accomplished without comprehensive representation of the communities we will serve,” said Ailstock in a news release.

Gwinnett is the most diverse county in the state and one of the most diverse in the nation. About 68% of residents identify as nonwhite, according to 2020 U.S. Census data.

The foundation does not anticipate placing diversity requirements on the future tenants of Rowen, Ailstock said. It will ask each vendor and contractor to provide an “SMWBE utilization plan” detailing efforts for achieving the 30% minimum within its team as part of their proposal to work on the project.

Rowen is currently in the planning phase for installing infrastructure such as roads, water, sewer and trails to the site, which it expects to begin constructing in mid-2022.

The county broke ground in November on its $125 million Eastern Regional Infrastructure project, which includes new trails and expanded water and sewer services within and around Rowen.

Gwinnett had invested nearly $75 million toward the project by the end of September, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported, and the county will continue funding it until Rowen is self-sustainable.

ajc.com

County officials, who approved tentative plans for Rowen a little more than a year ago, expect Rowen to add $8-$10 billion of ongoing labor income at full build-out. Rowen is situated equidistant from Atlanta, Athens and Gainesville and within driving distance of 50 higher education institutions.

A comprehensive site plan of what Rowen will include has not been released yet. The project will likely include a town center with public park space, cafes and a small number of apartments. Office buildings will be fitted among the naturally wooded areas that now enshroud the land.

About the Author

Editors' Picks