Workforce transportation is no stranger to the conversation when discussing economic development in rural Georgia.
As Georgia continues to find innovative ways to support job growth and economic development, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, has identified workforce transportation as a vital piece of the puzzle to better position rural communities for job creation and retainment.
In partnership with RS&H, Inc., an integrated architecture, engineering, and consulting firm, the Center will spearhead a workforce transportation vanpool program feasibility study for rural communities in northwest Georgia. The project will be completed in early summer of 2021.
“Transportation is key in northwest Georgia where lines are crossed between rural and urban communities when it comes to jobs and opportunity,” explains Janet Cochran, project manager for Georgia’s Rural Center. “Hopefully, this study will assist these communities with finding solutions toward steady employment and a reliable workforce with the option of better transportation.”
This study will evaluate existing transportation barriers using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to ensure residents and key stakeholders in the communities can shape the process in the development of recommendations with a sound technical underpinning for successful implementation.
RS&H, Inc. senior planner and project manager, Rachel Hatcher, LEED-AP, AICP, ASLA explains, “Access to affordable and dependable transportation is one of the most fundamental barriers to workforce development and employee retention. In rural regions, the population is more dispersed and typically located further from major job centers, creating unique challenges for employers and employees alike.”
Vanpools can provide consistent, reliable, and affordable transportation for work commutes in rural parts of the state where public transit is minimal or non-existent.
A vanpool group allows for five to 15 employees to share a ride to work. Vehicle size and cost of operation determine the number of participants. The vanpool group designates drivers who are the employees utilizing the program, and they meet at a selected location and time based on employee schedules.
The study will focus on 15 northwest counties including Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield. These counties make up Georgia’s economic development Region 1.
“We are excited to bring our industry expertise to support this important initiative for the northwest Georgia region and look forward to the opportunity to support rural Georgia’s economic prosperity,” expresses Hatcher.
Scott Blount, associate director for Georgia’s Rural Center, also notes, “With this feasibility study, we hope to find options that are replicable in other rural areas.”
The Rural Center’s mission is to build healthy, vibrant rural communities with managed support and collaborative partnerships. This project focuses on one of the Center’s core principles of reconnecting the people and places of rural Georgia in a manner that supports statewide success.
Housed at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia’s Rural Center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance, and other cooperative efforts with community partners. The Center was established by House Bill 951 in 2018. To learn more about the Center, visit www.ruralga.org.
With a tradition that began in 1941, RS&H is one of the nation’s leading architecture, engineering, and consulting firms that has helped pioneers build the launch platforms for our national space program, create global airports that connect communities, shape progressive transportation systems across the country, and provide facilities for Fortune 1000 companies. RS&H’s market-based, specialized experience empowers our associates to deliver time-tested insights coupled with a comprehensive mastery of industry-specific financing and delivery methods. RS&H can be reached at 1.800.741.2014 or www.rsandh.com.