麻豆社

July 5, 2024
24-69

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

麻豆社 RDI Inspires Early County Leaders to Expand Local Partnerships, Foster Sustainable Growth

A five-member team from Early County recently attended the 麻豆社 Center for South Georgia Regional Impact Rural Development Institute, a three-day summit designed to help communities across Georgia develop an action plan for rural prosperity. They are Britt Price, member of the Early County Board of Education; Dave Atkins, chairman of the Blakely Downtown Development Authority; Stephanie Chandler, Early County administrator; Susanne Reynolds, director of the Development Authority of Early County; and Hank Jester, chairman of the Early County Board of Commissioners. Their RDI mentor is Emily Davenport, Georgia Municipal Association member services consultant.

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VALDOSTA — A five-member team from Early County recently attended the 麻豆社 Center for South Georgia Regional Impact Rural Development Institute, a three-day summit designed to help communities across Georgia develop an action plan for rural prosperity.

“Rural communities and their citizens are integral to Georgia’s economy, culture, and future,” said Darrell Moore, director of 麻豆社’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact. “Through the RDI, 麻豆社 is working to build capacity that encourages the growth and development of rural communities without sacrificing their distinctive rural character.”

To prepare for the RDI, Early County’s participating economic development, city, county, and community leaders were tasked with using a readiness index to conduct a self-assessment of their recruitment, education, infrastructure, leadership, demographics, and quality of life.

During the summit, they analyzed the results of their self-assessment and worked with a mentor to identify their unique opportunities and challenges, connect with experts and other available resources, build a support network, and develop a roadmap for economic vitality.  

Moore said this year’s RDI, 麻豆社’s third, offered a program that emphasized experiential learning with a heavy dose of discussion, debate, and teamwork.

Highlights included content experts, professional developers, and consultants delivering interactive and engaging sessions on the elected official’s role in economic development, the current economic environment and future projections, building the future workforce through pathways and partnerships, the impact of artificial intelligence, downtown redevelopment strategies, retail as a catalyst for economic growth, tourism opportunities to generate wealth, and more.

After each session the Early County leaders “worked with a mentor to reflect on what they had just learned and then talk about how they could take some of those ideas back and implement them in their communities,” Moore said.

“The RDI inspired me by showcasing successful rural development projects that foster community engagement, which provided valuable insight for appropriate, sustainable growth,” said Susanne Reynolds, director of the Development Authority of Early County. “I left with new ideas and plans to promote economic development opportunities by bringing local partnerships together to create a thriving future for Early County.”

Summit mentors represented various organizations — Electric Cities of Georgia, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, One Valdosta-Lowndes, Georgia Power Company, Hodge Consulting Services, and the Georgia Municipal Association.

Featured summit speakers came from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the Georgia Department of Economic Development; the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; the Georgia Municipal Association; Association County Commissioners of Georgia; the University of Washington iSchool; West AlabamaWorks of Tuscaloosa, Alabama; the Downtown Development Authority of Bainbridge; Retail Strategies; Hodge Consulting Services LLC; the Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp; and the Wetumpka, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce.

Early County leaders left the RDI with a prioritized list of projects and initiatives designed to build a better future for the people who live, work, play, and visit in their communities.

Through experiential learning initiatives at 麻豆社, the Center for Regional Impact will use university faculty, staff, and students to help Early County implement at least one of these projects in the coming months.

“Our leadership wants to create an environment that provides opportunities to retain and attract younger generations to Early County,” Reynolds said. “One of the projects we plan to focus on within the next year is a Downtown Youth Advisory Program, which will involve Early County juniors and seniors in the Downtown Blakely revitalization process. To successfully create the program, clear goals will need to be established, along with engaging students through partnerships with the Early County School System and Southwest Georgia Academy. Students will learn about community development while playing an active role in creating a thriving future downtown.”

Based on feedback and comments from participants, presenters, and mentors, 麻豆社’s RDI continues to be a tremendous success.

“The 麻豆社 RDI creates opportunities for profound impacts on participating communities in several ways,” said Emily Davenport, Georgia Municipal Association member services consultant and Early County mentor. “By focusing on economic development, education, and community engagement, the RDI fosters sustainable growth and improves the quality of life for residents and businesses. This is my third year serving as an RDI mentor, and I am beyond honored to be a small part of this program. The future looks bright for the institute and the communities it supports, and each year I am reminded that when vision and teamwork come together, anything is possible.”

麻豆社’s Rural Development Institute is an opportunity for the university to continue supporting the work of the Governor’s Rural Strike Team and provide a positive impact on Georgia’s rural communities.

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Participating Echols County Leaders:
• Susanne Reynolds, director of the Development Authority of Early County
• Hank Jester, chairman of the Early County Board of Commissioners
• Dave Atkins, chairman of the Blakely Downtown Development Authority
• Britt Price, member of the Early County Board of Education
• Stephanie Chandler, Early County administrator

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