The Georgia Academy for Economic Development..some success stories
When Linda Williams, Dawson County Chamber President attended the Region 2 Academy in 2000, she recognized the need for the county to have an economic development plan. Linda led the effort to form a grassroots economic development committee that included several Academy graduates. Through many months of meetings with key leaders in the county, the committee created a plan that is vital to the county's economic development efforts. Linda attended the leadership portion of the 2002-2003 Academy and presented the process of developing the plan and encouraged other counties to create a plan.
Cynthia Brown, President of Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, said "The Academy is a vital link for economic development to work in our communities. To think regionally is a critically important part of our 'new' approach to development."
Economic development in a community is dependent on land use planning. That was the theme of a workshop attended in June, 2003, by local leaders representing six counties in North Georgia. “Efficient public service and infrastructure delivery, prevention of undesirable development, and protection of natural resources are just a few of the benefits of land use regulations,” said Gary Fesperman, Chairman of the Region 2 Advisory Council Land Use Planning Committee, and recent graduate of the Georgia Academy. Class members, in addition to a tourism-based technology project, decided to host a conference on land-use planning for the six counties in the region with no land use plans.
Doug Cleveland, 2005 graduate of the Academy, will succeed Jack Edmunds as chairman of the Hart County Industrial Building Authority. In a press release (May, 2006), Edmunds said, “Doug Cleveland is an excellent choice to lead the Building Authority. He not only has a heart for economic development and its benefit to our county, but he is already involved in many activities that allow him to keep his finger on the economic pulse of our community.” Cleveland, immediate past chairman of the Hart County Chamber of Commerce and graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, pushed for economic development during his tenure as chairman.
During the 2002 session in Region 5, one of the participants took our new course material back home with him – literally. The participant was a member of the Chamber Board of Directors and was serving as the Chair of the Economic Development Committee. After seeing the Academy’s Consensus module, he helped convince the county commissioners to let the local citizens have a part in the update of their land-use plan. He told the commissioners that it would give them “cover” when they had to make some of the hard decisions later on. So, the county commissioners set up various citizen committees to make decisions about the future plans for the community. One of the committees was assigned the task of developing recommendations about the future development of the county. Our Academy graduate also remembered the point about including the people who are usually opposed to growth. He then asked Academy facilitators to present our tax base module program to the citizen’s committee. That night, after the presentation, the ‘no-growth” citizen said, “We need to go find some available land and make it an industrial park with water and sewer lines.” After that, the story only gets better. But, without the internal push from one of our graduates, this community would still be struggling for the right answer.
In Twiggs County, a class member from 2000 was appalled by the homework as presented on Twiggs County, particularly on Jeffersonville. It hit her, when she saw the homework presentation, just what a poor picture Jeffersonville and Twiggs County presented to the community, and how poorly they would show to a prospect, should they have a visit. She went back home and shared this with the local community group Twiggs County Partners for Progress, in particular their economic development and downtown development committees. The downtown development committee got busy and, using the upcoming dedication of their newly restored Courthouse as an incentive, enlisted volunteers to begin cleaning up downtown Jeffersonville. To date, they have had 3 clean-up days in downtown Jeffersonville, with more to come. The GAED grad, using the same homework-type presentation, also recently "encouraged" a local business owner to take pride in the area around his business and clean it up.
Marsha Priest Buzzell (2003) led a leadership class of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development in putting together a video that promotes 11 Middle Georgia counties and is distributed by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The video, "Rambling Through the Region," highlights tourist attractions in Middle Georgia, and is used at state welcome centers and in the tourism industry.
Mayor Emma Gresham of Keysville went through the Academy in 1999. Since then she has continued to use the regional staff (DCA, DITT, UGA SBDC) as resources in educating her City Council about the particulars of community and economic development. Mayor Gresham has served as a DCA Board Member.
Several years ago in Region 7, there were two leading candidates for the county commission chair in the Academy class. One was the “adopted” candidate by the local economic development group, and the other was the “anti-growth” candidate. The anti-growth candidate won the election; however, by the time he had finished with the Academy class, he had changed his position, and was a converted “smart-growth” official. He has since worked with other counties to try to form a multi-county industrial park.
Sallie Adams (Wadley) – Went to the county and requested their help with repairing an old school and they made the needed repairs.
During the Better Hometown Program selection presentations, Bill Deyo, Academy Graduate from McRae stated that he and the mayor had just completed the Academy (Region 9, Spring 2003) and during the program Telfair County had been reviewed by a team of people from another county. The evaluation showed that Telfair County wasn't as presentable as it could have been. This news prompted immediate "clean up" efforts that were community-wide. They plan to make this an on-going process.
Johnny Clifton (Montgomery County - 1999) – Learned about the RAP grant through his GAED class. Pulled Montgomery and Toombs counties together to apply for the grant to fund industrial park. This led to a two-county merged Chamber of Commerce. Built a spec. building and sold the building. Learned that counties that work together get more accomplished. There was major clean up in the county due to the homework “bad” pictures that were presented. In particular a dilapidated building in Uvalda, and another eyesore in the county have been fixed as a result of the Academy.
Tattnall joined Toombs County Entrepreneur Support program (due to class members in Academy being exposed to the programs), now Treutlen Co. is also joining this partnership (2005).
John Cheney (Tattnall County) – During the homework section of the GAED class, the homework team that visited Tattnall notice there was no entrance signs into the county and because of this gateway welcome signs were purchased by local funds.
The Tri-County Industrial Park is a joint effort of Appling, Bacon and Jeff Davis counties. Economic and community leaders in these three counties were among the first participants in the Georgia Academy for Economic Development back in 1994, and during these sessions started discussing industrial park development and today the park is a reality, located along US 341 in tiny Graham, GA, very close to where the borders of all three counties meet.
The Mayor of Midway, Reverend James Shipman, used what he learned in our class to help with water/sewer improvements and also has followed up about quality communities to get assistance with saving historic properties while revitalizing downtown. He graduated in March (2003).
Several graduates of the Region 12 Academy have been named to the Coastal Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee by DCA Commissioner Mike Beatty. The CCPAC will outline a vision for Georgia's coastal area that promotes sustainable future development without compromising the region's valuable and vulnerable natural environment. CCPAC members will study tourism, economic development and environmental management, housing and transportation issues affecting Georgia's coastal area as it develops the Plan. Academy alumni named to this important committee include: Chatham County: Paul Brockington; Liberty County: John McIver and James "J.C." Shipman.
Tom Cannon (Garden City) – City has formed a Community Development Dept. for planning purposes. They started a leadership development class for the smaller municipalities with Chatham County and it has been a big success. Have also initiated Garden City planning Commission and Chatham County Planning Commission joint planning issues workshops twice a year. Garden City group has also visited Atlanta to see what other cities have done in their downtowns. They are in process of creating their downtown now.
Local leadership in a community is what makes a difference, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor told Rotary members Tuesday (June, 2003). Speaking at the Tifton Rotary Club's installation banquet at Spring Hill Country Club, Taylor said leadership development training in rural Georgia counties should focus on economic development. "With the economic development focus, the leader has to be willing to step back from his community and look at what an investor would see," said Taylor. (Basically a description of our program and the homework assignment!)
“I had a great time at the Academy last year. I wished there were Parts 2, Part 3, etc to continue participating in! Many of the things I learned last year have been extremely helpful for me this year, and at times a few of the lessons learned at the Academy were crucial in the success of a couple of programs I put together this year. For that I say thanks.”. (new Chamber executive in Region 1 after completion of the program.)
“What makes a community successful? If we could just bottle up the ingredients and sell the final product, we could be a millionaire. I am attending The Georgia Academy for Economic Development which allows participants to look at regional economic needs and look at options to solve or improve economic development needs. The common factor that is needed is strong cooperative leadership. Such leadership must exist with elected officials, public employees, schools, business leaders in industry, retail businesses, small businesses, banks, not for profit, civic groups and church leaders. With strong leadership, effective communications, common goals and actions, you can build a community with opportunities and maintain a high quality of life.” Bill Jeffries (Region 4, 2003)
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