Letter from the Director: Center happenings

As we wrap up 2019, and our first full calendar year of operations, let’s review some of the highlights of a busy fourth quarter. October is always an exciting month in middle and south Georgia, as the Georgia National Fair in Perry and the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie draw thousands of people to these vibrant rural communities. This year’s Expo, in its 42nd year at Spence Field in Moultrie, was especially big for the Rural Center, as we are engaged in a two-part project that will provide Expo’s leadership with information and recommendations that we hope will continue positioning it as “North America’s Premier Farm Show.” For the first part, we have partnered with UGA’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development to provide the Expo with an economic impact analysis that will illustrate the event’s value to the surrounding region. The second part of the project will consist of a strategic plan, which will be crafted using information gleaned from surveys, hours of interviews, and focus groups that cover all stakeholders, including Expo staff and Board members, Expo attendees, vendors, and community leaders. The final report will be completed in the spring.  The Center is also working on a community branding project for the City of Nashville in Berrien County. Center staff, interns, and a branding consultant conducted three focus groups in the community in November, which provided a great deal of feedback from residents representing a broad age range and diverse backgrounds. Using community feedback and the expertise of the consultant, a report with recommendations will be provided to the community this summer.  Additionally, a similar project will be beginning in early 2020 in Chattooga County, which is in the northwest region of Georgia.  Center staff have continued to work with the House Rural Development Council, as they wrap up their third year of work in studying ways to meet the challenges facing rural Georgia. The Council met in Kingsland in October, Eatonton in November, and had their final meetings in Americus in December, at which final recommendations for the 2020 legislative session were made. During these final three Council meetings, topics covered included rural transit, rural brownfield redevelopment, industrial hemp research, and the rural physician shortage, among others. The Center’s Director, Dr. David Bridges, presented on succession planning to preserve access to primary healthcare in rural communities. Dr. Bridges was joined in the presentation by Chris Scoggins of the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at Mercer.       We are looking forward to an innovative and prosperous 2020. Thank you for your continued support of rural Georgia. Sincerely,   Scott Blount   Associate Director Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation

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