DCA Board Members, staff explore progress in Statesboro
Georgia Department of Community Affairs staffers convened in Statesboro from May 1-2 for DCA’s quarterly Board meeting. This gathering also included a joint meeting with the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority, GHFA Economic Development Financing Inc., and GFHA Affordable Housing, Inc. The DCA Board consists of nearly 20 individuals, including but not limited to, attorneys, government officials, CEOs and community leaders.
Commissioner Christopher Nunn gave an update on Broadband, a statewide initiative which aims to provide high-speed internet access to unserved areas in rural communities. $2M has been provided to continue this deployment initiative.
Community Development Block Grants were also a topic of discussion, and a panel of subject-matter experts provided insight and success stories. CDBG funds benefit low- to moderate-income residents by providing resources for livable neighborhoods, economic empowerment and decent housing.
Examples of CDBG funds in action include paving a heavily flooded road so school children can catch the bus safely; fixing septic issues to correct unsafe living conditions; and building a senior center in closer proximity to necessary resources for its residents.
Panel members were:
- Thomas Couch, Bulloch County Manager
- Jennifer Fordham, DCA Regional Rep for the Coastal Region 12
- Rusty Haygood, DCA Deputy Commissioner, Community Development & Finance
- Laura Mathis, Executive Director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission
- Cindy Steinman, Special Project Manager, Bulloch County Board of Commissioners
Haygood also mentioned an opportunity for communities to strive for an Innovation Award which will be presented at DCA’s awards banquet during its Fall Conference from October 15-17 in LaGrange. He said, “I am looking for something to transform the community and raise the bar for everyone else.”
Benjy Thompson, Development Authority of Bulloch County, provided insight into Statesboro’s growth and led a tour of the community.
- Bulloch County Senior Center, currently under construction, will provide its residents access to local community resources – all within walking distance.
- Grace Crossing Apartments, an “aging in place” facility that showcases DCA’s commitment to affordable housing. The average age of residents is 64 and their average income is $17,000 per year. Rent is calculated based on a percentage of the area’s median income and is currently less than $500 per month.
- Gateway Regional Industrial Park: WL Plastics is based in the Western US and conducts business with the natural gas industry. Statesboro was selected for a location due to a need to be close to Jacksonville port. An Equity Loan, funds that provide financial assistance to rural communities for economic development, contributed to the success of this facility.
- Viracon is an architectural glass fabricator who has been in business in Statesboro since 1998. In FY15, they received $300,000 in EDGE Funds, a means of financial assistance for businesses. These funds were essential to Viracon’s expansion of the Statesboro facility and product offerings.
In addition to traveling around Statesboro, Georgia Southern University officials hosted a night of networking, demonstrations and dinner. Attendees were invited to the Bishop Field House where they were greeted by the GSU band and heard remarks from the following:
- GSU President Kyle Marrero
- Statesboro Mayor Jonathan M. McCollar
- Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Roy Thompson
At the GSU Center for Wildlife Education, attendees took pictures with GSU’s mascot, Freedom, a bald eagle and participated in a demonstration with various birds, reptiles and insects. A networking dinner followed.