Annual Work Program
To fulfill its mission of advocating, championing and partnering for rural Georgia, the Council develops an annual work program that includes priorities and objectives to enhance the state’s rural development efforts. The work plan is developed in coordination with the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the Georgia Municipal Association, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, members of the Georgia General Assembly and input from the citizens who live and work in rural Georgia.
2012 Council Priorities
- Transportation: Providing innovative programs and capital resources to keep Georgia economically competitive with other states and regions is a priority of the Council. Georgia’s population and economy have grown rapidly, but capital resources have not kept pace with the infrastructure needs of our state. In fact, Georgia spends less per capita on transportation than most all other states. Improving the ability of Georgia employees to get to and from work and for Georgia employers to move products to domestic and international markets by road, rail, air and water is of critical importance. Passage of the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) on July 31, 2012 will provide the necessary capital resources to address many of these needs.
- Agriculture: As Georgia’s oldest and largest industry, agriculture contributes more than $70 billion annually to Georgia’s $719.8 billion economy. Despite societal changes, farming remains the foundation of the state's economic well-being. Approximately one in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry, or a related field. The Council supports the Georgia Grown initiative as a way to strengthen and enhance Georgia’s agriculture-based economy by validating the quality and origin of foods produced by Georgia farmers.
- Education: Because education is such a clear determinate of a child’s future success, all schools must be held accountable for program quality. Education instruction methods and technologies continually evolve and develop. Georgia’s public education system must focus on educating our children to meet the requirements and needs of the 21st century. The Council seeks to find the best research-based solutions available in order to support policies that demonstrate strong academic success and good stewardship of the public’s money.
- Workforce: Lifelong learning and continuous educational opportunities are critical to maintaining the type of specialized workforce necessary to be competitive in today’s global economy. Career pathways must provide the educational courses and technical training resources required for an emerging, transitioning, and existing workforce in order to maintain and learn the skills necessary to support Georgia’s diversified industrial and business mix. The Council understands that Georgia’s business community is only as strong as its workforce. Identifying programs and policies that enhance and empower lifelong learning is a priority of the Council.
- Immigration: Immigration is a complex issue with significant policy development required at the Federal level. However, we all have a vested interest in making sure that Georgia’s agricultural employers have the resources necessary to effectively run their operations to protect our state’s # 1 economy. The Council seeks to support state and federal policy makers as they grapple with this challenging but critical issue.
- Broadband: Broadband is to the 21st Century what electricity was to the 20th Century. High speed broadband is required in order for rural communities to compete for company locations and new jobs. In addition, high speed broadband removes the barriers to economic development, educational opportunities, quality healthcare, and myriad other factors that are part of a thriving and sustainable economy. The Council seeks to identify financial resources and strategies to eliminate the pockets of un-served and underserved citizens across Georgia.
- Infrastructure: Many rural communities are struggling to maintain and support aging infrastructure including water and sewer systems. Declining and aging populations threaten to erode the revenue base necessary to support and sustain the very essential services expected by the public.
- Public Safety: Many rural communities do not have the financial resources to support E-911 systems, fire protection, EMS, and other public safety entities deemed the responsibility of local government. The lack of high speed broadband in rural areas as a method of communication and logistics is but another factor inhibiting emergency services in rural areas.
- Natural Resources: Preservation and protection of Georgia's abundant natural resources is critical to our future. Water is essential to our agricultural sector while the beauty of our mountains, rivers and coast is important for the tourism economy that it promotes. Finding an appropriate balance between development and preservation is essential.
- Military/Retirees: Georgia is home to thirteen military bases, including Ft. Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. Providing military retirees with a streamlined approach to transition from military to civilian life is seen as an important factor to keeping these highly trained professionals in Georgia.
In addition, the Council supports a set of core activities in its annual work plan including:
Statewide Leadership Initiative
Without strong, active and informed leadership, the state’s infrastructure investments in rural Georgia will produce only marginal returns. The need for informed local leaders has spurred the Council to enlist the support of the Governor and General Assembly to create a comprehensive leadership initiative. The initiative has provided funding to support three critical and comprehensive programs across the state:
- Community Leadership Initiative – A skills based, community-level leadership program designed to equip local leaders with the skills necessary to support development of the social and economic goals of their community. Beginning with Georgia’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties, the program supports leadership programs in all of Georgia’s 159 counties.
- Youth Leadership Initiative - This initiative is geared toward involving Georgia’s youth in developing strategies that encourages youth to make their future in the state. A biennial youth summit is held in odd number years, drawing over 800 young Georgians from all 159 counties.
- Regional Georgia Academy for Economic Development – An outcome based, results-oriented economic leadership program designed to empower rural Georgians to become more active on regional economic development issues.
In addition, the Council sponsors an annual Leadership Day at the State Capitol that brings people together to celebrate the importance of leadership in Georgia’s development activities. Participants include legislators, adults, youth, leadership development experts, and anyone interested in leadership in Georgia.
Celebrating Rural Georgia
In order to bring people together to discuss important issues and share ideas relevant to our rural communities, the Georgia Rural Development Council sponsors Celebrating Rural Georgia. This event is a partnership supported by public and private organizations across rural Georgia. CRG highlights best practices in economic development and provides training and networking opportunities to enhance our rural leaders' knowledge of available development tools to grow success in their local communities.
The Council has advocated for rural Georgia in the Georgia General Assembly, supporting leadership development, workforce development, housing, health care, technology, community and economic development and regional initiatives.
Programs funded as a result of the Council's legislative efforts include:
- Statewide Leadership Infrastructure Investment Fund
- QuickStart for existing industry
- Georgia Cancer Coalition
- Georgia Cities Foundation
- Tax Increment Financing
- Business Expansion Support Act (BEST)
- Regional E-911 financing
- Broadband implementation financing (BRIDGE)
- Georgia mountain wine growers' legislation
- Smoking cessation and prevention programs