A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow UGA Public Service and Outreach units to equip rural Georgia communities with the tools, resources and knowledge to chart a strategy for economic recovery and long-term resiliency.
UGA Public Service and Outreach units will use the grant from the USDA’s Rural Community Development Initiative to launch PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership). Led by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, PROPEL will guide low-income rural cities and counties through a six-step model to develop and implement a plan to advance their rural economies.
The work will help communities build resiliency and capacity for long-term success, said Rob Gordon, director of the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
“We’ll be coaching them, showing them how to write and implement a strategic plan for economic development,” Gordon said. The Archway Partnership, the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development and the Small Business Development Center—all UGA Public Service and Outreach units — will help with the training.
“PROPEL will be a game changer for workforce and economic development in rural Georgia,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “By helping communities use data to drive decisions today, UGA is empowering them to chart their own economic outcomes in the future.”
Work will begin in early 2022 in five areas: Grady County, Pulaski County and Washington County, all UGA Archway Partnership communities; Appling County; and the Lower Chattahoochee Joint Development Authority, which includes Clay, Quitman, Randolph and Stewart counties.
Each area will identify a core team of community leaders, such as economic development professionals, elected officials, community representatives and leaders in education and business, to head the effort.
Over a two-year period, the area teams would learn to analyze economic and labor market data and identify community resources that could drive growth. The economic engines will differ from one area to the next, said Greg Wilson, a faculty member in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
“We look forward to working with these communities to identify ways to strengthen their economies based on their unique assets and opportunities,” Wilson said.