A humble beginning and heart for helping others laid the groundwork for Chairwoman Hendrickson to serve as the top elected official in Georgia’s second-most populous and most diverse county. As she prepares to unveil the county’s priorities in her third State of the County address on March 2, 2023, we talked with her about the most impactful programs her team has launched and what’s ahead for local businesses.
Chairwoman Hendrickson, the first person of color to be elected as Gwinnett County Chairperson, took the helm in the midst of the pandemic. Her experience leading the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services and shadowing former Chairwoman Charlotte Nash gave her a deep understanding of Gwinnett County, its economic environment, and the needs of its increasingly diverse population. According to Chairwoman Hendrickson, her first year was focused on remaining open so her organization could continue supporting businesses, essential workers and residents at a time of great need.
“Our second year was about rebuilding with fearless leadership,” she says. A key project in 2022 was opening the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center, which Chairwoman Hendrickson describes as a “game changer for small businesses.” This center helps entrepreneurs and startups by providing mentoring, networking opportunities, coworking space, administrative tools and important services that can help new businesses establish a sustainable growth trajectory. “We value small businesses and want them to thrive. They’re going to contribute to our community and its economic vitality. We see small businesses as the cornerstone to what makes our business environment vibrant,” she says.
Chairwoman Hendrickson also points to successes in streamlining interactions between new businesses and government agencies. “We’ve created a one-stop shop for businesses to obtain licensing and permits so they don’t have to bounce from place to place,” she says. “We’re removing some of the red tape and helping accelerate growth.”
Another key area of success is the partnerships the county government has built with local organizations that help drive job creation. “The county is a key partner with Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett. Together, we provide the services businesses need to thrive — everything from water services and roads to business licenses and networking,” she adds.
Chairwoman Hendrickson recognizes the strength of Gwinnett’s diversity index score of 80.9%, making it the most diverse county in the Southeast. She explains that this level of diversity helps leaders recruit new and expanding businesses to the area. “Gwinnett is more diverse than other counties, and we have a diverse workforce,” she says. “That’s very attractive to companies that come from all over the world. In order for a company to connect with a diverse population, their workforce must reflect that diversity and know how to communicate well with them.”
Now starting her third year as Chairwoman, she is focused on “leading with intention,” a theme that you hear often in conversations with her. “We’ve always been very intentional — serving with intention, striving to meet the needs of an ever-changing community. We hear our community and their needs. We know that many businesses are struggling due to the recession, dealing with inflation, having workforce issues due to the lack of workers, and many of our residents are struggling with housing issues and prices,” says Chairwoman Hendrickson.
To combat these challenges, she and her team are preparing to roll out new initiatives, which will be detailed at the upcoming State of the County address. At the event, she also plans to celebrate voter approval of SPLOST for another five years and talk about the impact that will have on local communities and capital improvements across the county. “We’ll also describe some of the enhanced services we’ll fund to meet the changing needs of our community,” says Chairwoman Hendrickson. “There will be a call to action for everyone, and we’ll ask everyone to commit to it. We’re all in this together.”