Georgia Tech’s Top-ranked Basic Economic Development Course Explores Placemaking

The Georgia Institute of Technology is hosting its 57th annual Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC), an immersive in-person event that explores the multifaceted theme of placemaking, Aug. 26 – 29, 2024, at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center.

BEDC is presented by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in conjunction with the International Economic Development Council (course completion can be applied toward certification) and the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute is the longest running, most diverse university-based development organization in the U.S. Through the application of Georgia Tech’s world-class research in science, technology, and innovation, it helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers, and communities hone their competitive edge.

Since its founding in the 1880s, Georgia Tech has been committed to promoting economic development in the state of Georgia, and BEDC — which was the nation’s first course of its kind when it debuted in 1967 — continues that longstanding tradition.

Led by the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for Economic Development Research, and under the guidance of a collaborative team of economists, city planners, and economic development practitioners, BEDC attendees spend four days participating in interactive workshops, networking with industry professionals, and listening to guest speakers whose expertise spans a range of disciplines.

The course delves into different strategies for fostering local economic development, from crafting effective incentives and creating quality communities to promoting economic recovery and resilience — not to mention navigating all the opportunities and challenges that arise in the process.

In short, there’s a lot more to economic development than simply providing jobs.

“Today’s society is more mobile than ever,” said Alan Durham, a program manager and BEDC course director with the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for Economic Development Research.

“Because an increasing number of number of workers are no longer tied to a centralized office location, they are embracing the opportunity to move to farther-flung areas. As a result, quality of life is becoming essential for attracting talent and retaining existing companies. This course trains influential local leaders who can assist their communities in doing exactly that.”

BEDC welcomes enrollees of all experience levels. Whether they are new to economic development or looking expand their existing knowledge base, participants can expect to complete the course armed with an amplified understanding of essential principles — and the skills to put them into practice.

What: Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC)
When:
August 26 – 29, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. EDT
Where:
Global Learning Center, 84 Fifth Street N.W., Atlanta, GA 30308
Presented by: The Georgia Institute of Technology in conjunction with the International Economic Development Council and the Georgia Economic Developers Association
Program director: Alan Durham, 404.660.0241, alan.durham@innovate.gatech.edu
Register: gt-bedc.org
For more information, contact: Krystle Richardson, 404.894.7174, krystle.richardson@innovate.gatech.edu

Finding Purpose and a Career After High School

Northwest Georgia initiative helps high school seniors not going
to college get 
prepared for professional opportunities and jobs

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — As a newly minted graduate of Cass High School, Zak Gibson could be forgiven if he didn’t exactly have the next phase of his life figured out just yet.

But now, Gibson, a warehouse technician at NOTS Logistics in Cartersville credits his career trajectory and increased sense of motivation to Project Purpose, a program that shows graduating high school seniors opportunities they have to maximize their potential if they choose a path other than college.

“Project Purpose helped me realize who I am as a person. It molded me into a more mature adult than I thought I was,” Zak said. “One thing that I did learn was no matter who you are, what you’ve been through — you do have a purpose and you can do anything you want to. You just have to set your mind to it.”

For employer participants, finding students like Zak allows them to work with students, invest in their professional futures, and build up pipelines of potential employees from the local community who can fill open jobs.

A program of iWORKS Northwest Georgia, in partnership with Worksource Georgia, Project Purpose launched in Bartow County in 2022, and expanded to Polk and Whitfield counties in 2023. In that two-year period, the program has worked with 35 students, Zak among them.

As designed, participants engage in a series of hands-on courses including résumé preparation, essential skills, workplace safety, and financial literacy, among other abilities they are taught to master. The program, which runs from 10 days to two weeks, includes classroom instruction, as well as on-site visits and training with potential employers.

It’s an offshoot of years of work of coordinated efforts at the regional, state, and federal levels to address the manufacturing needs of the 15-county region that is  northwest Georgia, said John Zegers, who is iWORKS co-chairman and the northwest Georgia region manager with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

“We are experiencing tremendous growth in the manufacturing sector in northwest Georgia,” Zegers said, noting Bartow County alone expects an influx of 4,000 new jobs in the next two years. There’s already low unemployment, so that, coupled with the expected bonanza of jobs means the region is facing an urgent workforce shortage, he said.

“Forty-eight percent of graduating high school students in our region will not immediately go to college — that equates to roughly 4,000 students per year,” Zegers said. “Our manufacturers are ready to train young adults who have the motivation. This program benefits industry, the local community and most importantly the young adults we are setting up for success.”

GaMEP, along with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR), another program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, have been working on northwest Georgia’s high-demand career initiative since 2014.

iWORKS is comprised of industry, workforce development and economic development experts, K-12 and post-secondary, community nonprofits, and economic development representatives. It was formed to help the region create and implement a strategy to draw those jobs — and fill them, said Leigh Hopkins, CEDR senior project manager and member of iWORKS’ leadership team.

“Manufacturing is the top industry sector in northwest Georgia, and they need workers desperately. iWORKS makes connections between the needs of employers and regional training resources across the region to create jobs and generate investment,” Hopkins said.

“When industries see industry-led coalitions like iWORKS, they know that they’re being supported and heard and that’s an important aspect in business retention and expansion, which is one of the main pillars in economic development.”

Project Purpose is just one of the many iWORKS efforts aimed at addressing those workforce needs, she added, noting one major goal is to expand it to all 15 counties in the region.

Courtney Laird, a recruiter with Shaw Industries — a flooring conglomerate and one of the region’s major employers — said Project Purpose is a worthwhile economic development initiative both for industry and personal growth of workforce newcomers.

“This very beneficial to the organization and industry — more importantly for the students to provide a leg up in their career for their future,” she said.

Jacob Herron, a 2022 Project Purpose graduate, and an extrusion associate with Shaw Industries, agreed with those sentiments. “The most valuable take-away for me was the communications skills,” he said. “How to communicate with your teammates, how to get along with them to work better together.”

It also gave him a boost in self-assurance, he said.

“I had a lot of self-confidence issues,” Jacob said. “The program helped me build up my self-confidence and allowed me to do more things.”

Interested in learning more about Project Purpose or know a northwest Georgia high school senior who might be good fit for the 2024 cohort? Please contact Leigh Hopkins: leigh.hopkins@gatech.edu or John Zegers: john.zegers@innovate.gatech.edu.

Georgia Tech EDA University Center Funds Redevelopment and Housing Studies for Two Georgia Towns

Analyses to help community leaders create long-term
residential home development growth strategies
The Depot building.
The AB&A Historic Train Depot in Fitzgerald, Georgia, is one of the community’s key attractions. The Depot is home to the Blue & Gray Museum, the Genealogy Research Center, and Collins Railroad Collection.

FITZGERALD, Ga. — In many ways, this South Georgia town boasts the best of small rural communities. Just 23 miles east of Interstate 75, Fitzgerald has a busy downtown thoroughfare with shops, antique stores, and eateries. It has a modern airport with a 5,000-foot runway, an active mainline railroad, and industrial parks. It’s also home to a museum with a nod to its 1895 beginnings as a community and haven for veterans who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

Fitzgerald also has a successful history of industrial recruitment that has provided the community with a significant manufacturing base. Recent capital investments in wood products, food and beverage processing, plastics, and manufacturing have increased employment, personal income growth, and the community’s GDP.

With its local economy steadily improving, this community of 9,000 is also looking to boost its new home development construction activity. Now, city leaders and officials from surrounding Ben Hill County are working with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and EDA University Center at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to produce a study to figure out a viable strategy.

The study is funded in part through an Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) grant, which is administered by the EDA University Center. These grants are targeted toward economically distressed communities that can’t afford the cost of this type of comprehensive economic development research. EDA University Center grants offset some expenses that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive to rural communities.

CEDR is conducting the six-month research and analysis project in Fitzgerald, which entails looking at housing that’s for sale, determining what the rental rates are, and developing housing development strategy recommendations for the entire city, said Betsy McGriff, a CEDR associate project manager and lead researcher on the study. It will also include ways to maximize cost effective development strategies, such as new home construction in historic neighborhoods to help revitalize them.

“Our objective is to get a much better understanding of the factors that are deterring new home development,” said Jason Dunn, executive director of the Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County Development Authority. “We want to create more homeownership and have the data needed to influence new residential development in Ben Hill County.

Jason Dunn portrait
Jason Dunn is executive director of the Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County Development Authority.

The need for the Fitzgerald study comes as the community has seen increased demand for more housing with options in both single family, owner-occupied homes, as well as rentals. But the city’s existing inventory isn’t enough to meet the demand, nor is it energy efficient, comprised of buildings that are at least 100 years old.

“We believe the study will give us the market data needed to pursue a public-private partnership to meet the community needs and lead to residential development that will provide housing solutions in one of Georgia’s most rural areas,” Dunn said.

CEDR is also doing a nine-month study for the City of Jefferson Downtown Development Authority, located in North Georgia’s Jackson County, about 22 miles northwest of Athens. That multifaceted project, which is also partly funded by an EDRP grant, includes a housing market analysis to create a strategy to get more residential housing units built closer to its downtown.

It also includes a retail market analysis to determine what goods and services are needed in the area. It also includes visioning sessions to advise the Downtown Development Authority and help its leaders prioritize strategies and future steps needed for maximum community impact.

The Missing Middle

The two projects reflect the growing housing challenge that scores of communities face across the country said Alan Durham, a CEDR researcher and director of the Basic Economic Development Course.

“Across the U.S., right now we’re short about 4 million housing units. And a lot of those missing units are entry level affordable housing, and workforce housing for police, fire fighters, nurses, and teachers. That’s what’s called the missing middle,” said Durham, who has been researching the national trends and leads the Jefferson project research.

As costs rise, developers are trending toward building very high-end homes. While the high-end housing market is doing well, not enough at the other end — entry-level housing — is being built, squeezing out a market segment communities need to attract.

“Millennials and Gen Z, they can’t even get their foot in the door in the housing market anymore,” Durham said. “The ideal range on housing expenditures is 25% to 30% of gross income. In reality, many are spending over 50% of their wages on housing, leaving them cash-poor to deal with basic necessities and unforeseen expenses.”

Part of the research CEDR will do includes data analyses of both communities. The research will break both communities into their respective income tiers to see how many people make a set amount of money per year, Durham said.

Based on the different income tiers, the CEDR analyses in Fitzgerald and Jefferson will guide the types of housing price points leaders in both communities should pursue.

Detailed Analysis

In addition to the income tiers and bands major employers in each community pay, the CEDR studies will analyze employee commuting patterns, where residents shop for staple goods and services, and other factors that shape where people decide to live.

“These are very rural markets so our work to pull meaningful and actionable data will be different than in a metro area where it’s a little clearer or there’s just more data to be had,” McGriff said. “Our focus and approach will be a lot more granular to assess the demands of a rural market and pull out really meaningful data.”

Armed with that data, both communities will be positioned to develop strategies for targeted engagement with the right mix of investors and developers, McGriff said.

“They’re going to have to sell their communities to investors using the data we produce and the recommendations that we develop together for development strategies,” McGriff said. “These EDA University Center grants are really an investment tool for economic development, and they can leverage that money to attract investments to their communities, which could lead to more jobs and increased tax base, which just then cycles into helping these communities thrive.”

About the Georgia Tech EDA University Center
The Georgia Tech EDA University Center is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) through its EDA University Center program. Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Tech EDA University Center supports outreach activities that seek to promote job creation, development of high-skilled regional talent pools, business expansion in innovation clusters, and create and nurture regional economic ecosystems in the state of Georgia and other states within the EDA Atlanta region (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). The Center’s primary focus areas are innovation-led ecosystem support for universities and communities and strategic economic development support for distressed communities. To learn more, please visit grow.gatech.edu/eda-university-center.

About the Center for Economic Development Research
The Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) is a collaborative team of economists, city planners, and economic development practitioners. Our talented economic development professionals have the research and implementation experience needed to help economic developers, community leaders, and industries alike understand the opportunities and challenges in fostering local economic development. CEDR is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. To learn more, please visit cedr.gatech.edu.

Creating Communities that Draw People and Business Under the New Workplace Model

56th Annual Basic Economic Development Course 2023
theme focuses on Placemaking and Economic Recovery

ATLANTA — As communities move past the effects of COVID-19 and the economic turmoil stemming from the pandemic, economic development professionals are fully engaged in recovery.

The 56th Annual Georgia Tech Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) will arm these professionals with the tools and strategies needed to maximize opportunity and potential for local communities in a four-day course from August 28-31. (Register: http://tiny.cc/BEDC2023)

The 2023 BEDC keynote speakers include Eric Kronberg, founder of Kronberg Urbanists Architects, and Elizabeth Ward Williams, the firm’s director of urban design.

The new realities of today’s workforce in a post-pandemic economy means communities must reimagine themselves in ways that make them more attractive to people as places to live and for businesses to operate.

Presented by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in collaboration with the International Economic Development Council and the Georgia Economic Developers Association, this comprehensive course will explore the use of placemaking as an economic development tool to help professionals create quality places where people want to live and businesses believe they will thrive.

The 2023 theme is Placemaking and Economic Recovery: Creating Communities Where People Want to Live and Businesses Want to Be. Keynote speakers include Eric Kronberg, founder of Kronberg Urbanists Architects, and Elizabeth Ward Williams, that firm’s director of urban design.

“We know the pandemic has changed the way we operate in a lot of ways with telecommuting and remote working being a fixed reality for business and job seekers,” said Alan Durham, BEDC course director. With work-from-home or hybrid commuting schedules the norm, communities need to rethink how they create strategies and make them more appealing to potential residents and business investments, he said.

“Our course is designed to teach attendees how to maximize opportunities in this new reality. People aren’t moving to a given community simply to be closer to work if there’s no central office or even a requirement to go into one,” Durham said. “So, it’s imperative that officials looking to boost their communities’ economic development opportunities shift their thinking.”

Part of that shift means focusing on strategies that create an attractive quality of life both for residents and business, plan for economic recovery and resilience, smart incentive packages, and other tools. Communities must also find creative ways to address the shortage of workforce and entry-level housing options.

BEDC course speakers will address several topics over the four days that will help attendees capitalize on their communities’ unique assets and how they can effectively use and maximize placemaking as an economic development tool.

Among the course topics:

    • Workforce Housing Strategies
    • Business Retention and Expansion
    • Real Estate Development and Reuse
    • Business Credit Analysis
    • Workforce Development
    • Strategic Planning
    • Economic Impact and Incentives
    • Managing Economic Development Organizations
    • Ethics in Economic Development
    • Small Business and Entrepreneur Development
    • Marketing and Attraction
    • Disaster Recovery and Resilience
    • Media Strategy

This four-day conference gives attendees opportunities to network with industry peers and experts, deeply explore the fundamentals and emerging concepts of comprehensive economic development and prepare them to immediately implement tools and skills gained during the course.

Since its inception in 1967, the Georgia Tech BEDC has prepared more than 3,300 economic developers from all over the world for the IEDC Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) Examination. The certification is considered an essential component of a career in economic development. BEDC at Georgia Tech is accredited by the IEDC and qualifies as a professional development training requirement needed to sit for the exam.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2022, Enterprise Innovation Institute programs worked with 15,785 clients to create or save 13,891 jobs and secure $2.4 billion in capital investments. As a group, the Enterprise Innovation Institute helped generate an economic impact return of $422.55 for every dollar received from state appropriations in 2022. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.

About the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR)
The Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech with a mission to help communities and economic developers grow and thrive. CEDR, which manages the Basic Economic Development Course, uses in-depth of research, planning, and implementation experience along with resources across the broader Georgia Tech community to provide cutting edge solutions for the innovation economy. To learn more about CEDR and the services offered, please visit cedr.gatech.edu.

Increasing Expertise

The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Leigh Hopkins earns her Certified Economic Developer credential

Economic developers around the state, many with years of experience and expertise themselves, often hire the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) for assistance with workforce development, strategic planning, fiscal and economic impact analyses, and more. Now, when CEDR gets a call, the program will have one more resource to offer. Leigh Hopkins, senior project manager at CEDR, is a newly minted Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). It’s a national designation that’s been years in the making, and marks Hopkins as an authority in the field of economic development.

Leigh Hopkins, CEDR senior project manager

The credential wasn’t always her goal. “I’m a city planner by trade and education,” Hopkins said.

She completed a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Georgia Tech in 2005, then worked for the city of Atlanta as well as the private sector before coming back to her alma mater in 2008. After joining CEDR, she got her certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners.

“I’ve held that certification ever since 2010, because it’s the industry credential for the planning profession, and I was hired here to work on projects with a planning component,” she said. “Over time, my job has morphed from planning, which can sometimes be idealistic, into economic development where the rubber meets the road in terms of helping communities implement their plans, but economic development wasn’t my area of expertise at first.”

As her role changed to include economic development-type work — strategic plans for communities and workforce development, primarily — she was encouraged to pursue the CEcD designation. It’s a journey that can take years and involves core classes central to the economic development field, at least four years of work experience, and a three-part comprehensive exam.

“When I started working at Georgia Tech, we had two senior managers who had their CEcD certifications,” Hopkins said. “They were mentors and encouraged us to participate in professional development courses. Georgia Tech is one of the host sites for courses offered by the International Economic Development Council, the accrediting body for the CEcD. I was encouraged to take their classes.”

To receive the certification, candidates must complete four required courses: Basic Economic Development, Business Retention and Expansion, Economic Development Credit Analysis, and Real Estate Development and Reuse. In addition, candidates choose two courses from a list of electives that include finance, marketing, small business development, and neighborhood development strategies. Hopkins selected economic development strategic planning and workforce development as her electives, since they are the areas she works in most often.

Her current boss, CEDR Director Alfie Meek, Ph.D., also supported her in getting the designation. “Our primary clients are the local economic developers around the state, many of whom have the CEcD certification themselves,” Meek said.  “As the ‘experts’ who are hired to provide advice and thought leadership to these communities, it gives us instant credibility and rapport with our clients if we have put in the hard work to achieve that same level of professional credential.”

Hopkins agrees that it’s hard work. In fact, only about one-third of those who take the exam pass it. She has some tips for people who are considering it.

    • Study the books. Much of the test is straight from those.
    • Take a prep course or two.
    • Practice writing the essays.
    • Learn the terminology.
    • Get a mentor or study buddy.

“Passing the exam shows that you have arrived in this field,” Hopkins said. “There are also good networking opportunities and good opportunities for professional development within the field.” And while the credential is significant to her, it’s more meaningful in the context of her job.

“It was important to have someone on our staff to get the certification, to add credibility to what we do and how we interact with our clients,” Hopkins said. “I think it gives our clients peace of mind. They feel that they’re in good hands with somebody who is accredited and well-versed in the economic development field.”

 

Qcells Expansion Puts Focus on Georgia Tech’s iWorks Program

Offering connects employers and community leaders
with resources to drive economic development success

The good news: Northwest Georgia is slated to get a big economic development boost following a major announcement and planned company expansion that promises to create 3,500 new jobs. The challenge: In this still-tight job market, where’s a company to start?

When the company in question is Dalton-based solar-panel manufacturer Qcells, which has a 1,000-employee Dalton expansion set to begin manufacturing in August and a second expansion bringing 2,500 employees to Bartow County in 2024, a logical place to start is Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Specifically: iWorks.

The organization – technically named Igniting Workforce Opportunities and Reinforcing Knowledge and Skills – operates in Northwest Georgia and launched in 2017 out of former Gov. Nathan Deal’s High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI). That initiative brought together the University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia, K-12 school systems in Georgia, and the private sector to help fill workforce gaps in high demand fields like advanced manufacturing in the northwest part of the state.

Leigh Hopkins, iWorks project manager and CEDR senior project manager

“We see ourselves in a facilitator role making connections,” said Leigh Hopkins, the iWorks project manager and senior project manager for Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR).

iWorks is a program of CEDR, which is housed in the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s comprehensive economic development unit. iWorks is able to connect the dots in Northwest Georgia because CEDR has been working on projects including strategic plans and workforce development there since 2012. For example, iWorks recently sponsored a job fair, where 106 people found employment, including several who went to work at Qcells.

“We also had a webinar in November called After the Ribbon Cutting, that addressed what happens after these big announcements like the one from Qcells are made,” Hopkins said. “How is the community supposed to find people to fill the jobs that are coming?”

It’s an important topic for the region of about 700,000 people, and just one reason the iWorks board includes representatives from local manufacturers such as Qcells, economic and workforce developers, technical college representatives, and others, who work in concert to help deliver a growing and educated workforce to the region. One key to ensuring that new industry and new expansions can be successful.

Candice McKie, CEDR project manager

“iWorks is a trusted partner and conduit in helping our member companies and organizations work together to address common issues,” said Candice McKie, CEDR project manager. “We have the ability to have all of the key players in one room to discuss some of the same shared workforce challenges, and to be able to relay that information to the development authorities, the chambers, and the school systems, instead of having to go to those groups individually.”

Lisa Nash, the senior director of human resources; environmental, health, and safety; and general affairs at Qcells, echoed McKie’s sentiments.

“Being a part of iWorks puts at my fingertips the tools that I need to understand the region,” Nash said, explaining why she is so committed to the organization’s mission. “As an HR professional in this labor market, I have to understand what everyone else is doing. I need to know what other company is expanding, what other company is maybe not doing so well, what’s going to impact our labor market, and what’s happening from a wage perspective.”

iWorks gives her a place to learn all of that in one monthly meeting.

“iWorks understands the industry and they understand this region, and the needs of the business leaders in order to be successful,” Nash said. “Being a part of iWorks gives me a bird’s eye view of what I need or what countermeasures I need to put in place to be prepared for obstacles or challenges.”

While iWorks is many things, it isn’t a problem solver, she said. “They give you the ideas and the connections for you to solve your problems, for you to be able to come up with resources, they connect you with so many resources.”

Some of those resources are the webinars iWorks has facilitated. In addition to After the Ribbon Cutting, the organization as focused on topics such as affordable housing, another key component of a successful workforce, and nontraditional hiring, which includes successful second-chance programs for people who have been released from prison.

“What we hear from manufacturers is that they’re beating their heads against the wall trying to find employees,” said Hopkins. “We’ve found that people who come from a second chance background, people who are really targeted with employment opportunities, are much more successful and the employers are better able to retain them than folks who just fill out an application.”

iWorks also puts together tours of manufacturing facilities, including Qcells, for area high school students, who may not know what they want to do after graduation. “Just getting exposure to industry has been very helpful for the students,” says Hopkins.

Other programs include Be Pro Be Proud, an initiative led by the Cherokee County Office of Economic Development that introduces high school students to a variety of industries through a hands-on mobile lab. iWorks sponsored the mobile workshop’s visits to 10 high schools across the region. “We had a total of 963 students visit the mobile workshop, and 86% of those signed up to receive information and career opportunities that are related to their industry of interest,” said McKie.

iWorks is also working to help expand Project Purpose, a summer program that connects high school students to companies in the area.

The goal of all these programs is to help local companies and those that are moving into the region find the well-trained workforce they need. And while the work just got 3,500 times harder, the iWorks board is excited about the expansion of Qcells.

John Zegers, iWorks board co-chair and GaMEP’s NW Georgia regional manager

“It’s important for our board to stay flexible and fluid,” said John Zegers, co-chair of the iWorks board and Northwest Georgia regional manager for the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “That flexibility allows us to move where the need is and where the trends go. I think the makeup of our board is perfect for that, because we’re all on the front lines, we know what’s going on, and we’ll be able to keep our group relevant for what’s needed out there.”

Despite her extremely busy schedule as the Dalton expansion barrels toward August, Nash says she isn’t about to give up her seat on iWorks’ board.

“iWorks is committed to connecting education and the workforce so that we have a sustainable workforce for the future of manufacturing,” she said. “They’re starting younger and younger getting these kids interested in industry. I think iWorks does a really good job of balancing the current workforce and the future workforce.”

Learn more about the science of solar power and ways Georgia Tech researchers are helping build clean energy infrastructure in the state in $2.3B Qcells Solar Power Investment Holds Major Potential for Georgia.

 

Enterprise 6 Students Share Experiences in Working on Economic Development Projects

Six Georgia Tech students spent the summer working on various economic development projects as embedded Enterprise 6 (E6) interns in the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).

 

The six interns were selected from more than 200 students who applied for the slots for the inaugural internship cohort.

 

The 13-week, paid internship was funded by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and open to all Tech undergraduate and graduate students.

 

As Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, EI2 is comprised of a dozen programs across a host of sectors ranging from manufacturing and technology entrepreneurship, to minority business and community and regional planning and development.

 

“We were really excited about this opportunity and grateful for the support from EVPR’s office,” said David Bridges, EI2’s interim vice president. “We had students from a variety of disciplines including industrial engineering and economics and city planning.

 

“One of our goals with this was to show these students how they could use what they are learning in the classroom and the skills they are learning all have uses and applications in economic development.”

 

The students worked on challenging projects that allowed them to use their skills and classroom learning and apply that to economic development initiatives.

 

Mansi Mahajan, a graduate student studying quantitative and computational finance, interned with the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public-private effort launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the technology capital of the East Coast.

 

“We’re building a fund for investing in social impact startups, so I developed the financial model for the process and how it would be forecasted and what the returns would be depending on our investments,” she said. “I hadn’t worked in the finance field as much as I did in this internship, so this I found very rewarding and it was a very great experience working with them.”

 

For Dylan Both, an economics major in the Ivan Allen College for Liberal Arts, the E6 opportunity was his first internship.

 

Both worked with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR), which works with local communities, governments, and regional economic development organizations on a variety of initiatives, including impact analyses reports, strategic planning, and professional development.

 

Both researched best practices that communities around the country developed following natural disasters to evaluate for a recovery and resilience plan being created for southwest Georgia.

 

“Southwest Georgia suffered from Hurricane Michael and COVID. I was finding similar areas, similar regions that suffered from a natural disaster. And whatever best practices we learned from those, we gathered them up, chose which ones would be a good fit, and wrote about it,” he said. “My favorite thing was doing actual meaningful work.”

 

See what all the students shared about their experiences as E6 interns:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City of Woodbury for Revitalization Initiative Outcomes a Success for Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Research Program

The three-month project helped the city develop, plan short and long-term economic development goals for job growth, downtown revitalization

 

The Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) at the Georgia Institute of Technology finished a planning and revitalization initiative with the City of Woodbury, a community in West Georgia’s Meriwether County, under an agreement to help a coalition of civic and business leaders develop a strategic assessment plan to guide the city’s economic development efforts.

 

 

The strategic assessment process included an analysis of the community, starting with interviews with local and regional stakeholders. The assessment provides guidance on historic preservation as the city and local downtown development authority pursue redevelopment projects in some of Woodbury’s historic buildings in the central business district.

 

“The idea is by pursuing strategic redevelopment projects that make sense for Woodbury and leverage its assets, that will spur small business and job growth in downtown,” said Candice McKie, EDRP project manager. “One of Woodbury’s strengths is that it is attractive to people seeking a slower pace of life in a community that offers the benefits akin to being in a big city.”

 

The assessment’s findings help define Woodbury’s strengths and weaknesses and provides a vision to guide the city on attainable, effective actions to reach its short and long-term economic development goals. The strategic assessment also aided Woodbury with its application for a Rural Zone designation by Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs.

 

The project began in May 2020 and was completed in July 2020.  The city submitted its application for its Rural Zone designation through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in August 2020 and was awarded the designation in October 2020.

 

Located in Meriwether County’s southeastern quadrant, Woodbury sits within the Three Rivers Regional Commission area, a 10-county body that provides services to its member jurisdictions, including aging programs, workforce development, transportation, and local/regional planning.

 

Woodbury — which is a little more than two square miles in area and home to about 900 residents — is an hour’s drive south from Atlanta. Incorporated as a city in 1913, Woodbury’s downtown has a rich history. The community has statewide appeal, drawing tourists seeking rare antique finds, as well as outdoors enthusiasts who participate in waterfront recreational activities on the Flint River, located just a short trip to the east. Designated a “Broadband Ready” community by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the city recently installed 1G internet service throughout the downtown area.

 

Even with Woodbury’s cultural and natural amenities, local officials say the city is ripe for revitalization. That is why the city sought to capitalize on its historic assets and redevelop the downtown and applied to the EDRP.

 

“Partnering with Georgia Tech to complete our Strategic Priorities Assessment for our community has highlighted our community’s sense of pride and ownership,” said Woodbury Mayor Steve Ledbetter.  “Collectively, we can make a difference.  We can revive our downtown, bring new businesses into our community, and show our Georgia pride in Woodbury. We’re excited about this opportunity and look forward to implementing the plan developed through the EDRP program.”

 

Funded through a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center grant, EDRP serves rural and economically distressed communities in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.

 

Powered by Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR), EDRP leverages Tech’s assets to help communities engineer economic development success through affordable, in-depth research.

 

Communities that apply for a research grant have to commit local funds, based on ability to pay.  That local funding maximizes resources and ensures community involvement through all research project phases. Some recent EDRP studies include projects in Walker, Grady, and Liberty counties.

 

Outcomes of the Study: As a result of Georgia Tech’s work, the City of Woodbury was designated by DCA as a “Rural Zone” community, which provides tax incentives for investment, rehabilitation, and jobs created. The city has since added four new businesses to its downtown and a manufacturing company inside the city, established a Historic Preservation Commission, joined the Georgia Main Street “Start-Up” program and hired a part-time Main Street program director, and has many other initiatives underway.

Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Research Program Selects City of Woodbury for Revitalization Initiative

Three-month project to help city develop, plan short and long-term economic development goals for job growth, downtown revitalization.

 

Main Street, Woodbury, Georgia’s primary commercial strip. (Photo Credit: City of Woodbury)

The Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) at the Georgia Institute of Technology is working with Woodbury, a community in West Georgia’s Meriwether County, under an agreement to help a coalition of civic and business leaders develop a strategic assessment plan to guide the city’s economic development efforts.

 

The strategic assessment process includes an analysis of the community, starting with interviews with local and regional stakeholders. The completed assessment will also provide guidance on historic preservation as the city and local downtown development authority pursue redevelopment projects in some of Woodbury’s historic buildings in the central business district.

 

The project began in May 2020 and take three months to complete.

 

“The idea is by pursuing strategic redevelopment projects that make sense for Woodbury and leverage its assets, that will spur small business and job growth in downtown,” said Candace McKie, an EDRP project manager. “One of Woodbury’s strengths is that it is attractive to people seeking a slower pace of life in a community that offers the benefits akin to being in a big city.”

 

The assessment’s findings will help define Woodbury’s strengths and weaknesses and provide a preliminary vision to guide the city on attainable, effective actions to reach its short and long-term economic development goals. The strategic assessment will also aid Woodbury as it prepares its application for a Rural Zone designation by Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs.

 

Located in Meriwether County’s southeastern quadrant, Woodbury sits within the Three Rivers Regional Commission area, a 10-county body that provides a number of services, including aging programs, workforce development, transportation, and local/regional planning.

 

Woodbury — which is a little more than two square miles in area and home to about 900 residents —  is an hour’s drive south from Atlanta. Incorporated as a city in 1913, Woodbury’s downtown has a rich history. The community has statewide appeal, drawing tourists seeking rare antique finds, as well as outdoors enthusiasts who participate in waterfront recreational activities on the Flint River, located just a short trip to the east. Designated a “Broadband Ready” community by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the city recently installed 1G internet service throughout the downtown area.

 

Steve Ledbetter is mayor of Woodbury, Georgia. (Photo Credit: City of Woodbury)

Even with Woodbury’s cultural and natural amenities, local officials say the city is ripe for revitalization. That is why the city sought to capitalize on its historic assets and redevelop the downtown and submitted an application to the EDRP.

 

“Partnering with Georgia Tech to complete our Strategic Priorities Assessment for our community has highlighted our community’s sense of pride and ownership,” said Woodbury Mayor Steve Ledbetter.  Collectively, we can make a difference.  We can revive our downtown, bring new businesses into our community, and show our Georgia pride in Woodbury. We’re excited about this opportunity and look forward to implementing the plan developed through the EDRP program.”

 

Funded through a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center grant, EDRP serves rural and economically distressed communities in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.

 

Powered by Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR), EDRP leverages Tech’s assets to help communities engineer economic development success through affordable, in-depth research.

 

Communities that apply for a research grant have to commit local funds, based on ability to pay.  That local funding maximizes resources and ensures community involvement through all research project phases. Some recent EDRP studies include projects in Walker, Grady, and Liberty counties.

 

About the Economic Development Research Program (EDRP)
EDRP is Georgia Tech’s signature program for providing affordable economic development research and analysis capacity for communities that need it the most.  EDRP is funded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center grant program (Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is a designated EDA University Center).  EDRP is available to eligible communities across eight southeastern U.S. states. To learn more, visit cedr.gatech.edu/edrp.

Gov. Kemp taps Center for Economic Development Research director for coronavirus task force

Alfie Meek is an economist and director of the Center for Economic Development Research at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. (Photo: Jennifer Stalcup)

Looking to anticipate and blunt the effects of the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic on Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp has convened a coronavirus task force that looks at the economic, health, emergency response and preparedness, and housing implications of the deadly disease.

 

The 66-member task force is comprised of four subcommittees, including one focused on economic impact. That subcommittee includes Alfie Meek, economist and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) at Georgia Tech.

 

“The role of the Economic Impact Subcommittee is to help predict the economic effects on the state of Georgia from COVID19 and make recommendations,” Meek said. “We‘re also being asked to brainstorm policies that might be implemented to help ease the economic pain from this event.”

 

Meek has more than 25 years of experience in economic/fiscal impact analysis and community-based research. He leads the five-member CEDR staff, which works with its clients — economic developers, community leaders, and industry — to help them understand the opportunities and challenges in fostering local and regional economic development.

 

Meek is one of three economists selected to serve on the governor’s task force subcommittee. The others are Jeffrey Dorfman, the state fiscal economist who is the subcommittee chairman, and Thomas Cunningham the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s chief economist.

 

The full subcommittee met for the first time on March 19 in a virtual conference call.

 

“One clear goal is to represent the many different facets of Georgia’s economy that we think will be economically vulnerable at this time,” Meek said.

 

In addition to Dorfman, Cunningham, and Meek, the Economic Impact Subcommittee members include:

  • Allan Adams, State Director UGA Small Business Development Center
  • Nick Ayers, Managing Partner AFH Capital
  • Will Bentley, Georgia Agribusiness Council
  • Donna Bowman, Office of the State Treasurer
  • Labor Commissioner Mark Butler
  • Peter Carter, Delta Air Lines Chief Legal Officer (and Chair, Metro Chamber)
  • Bill Douglas, Athens First Bank & Trust
  • Georgia State Sen. Frank Ginn
  • Walter Kemmsies, economic consultant to Georgia Ports Authority
  • Steve McCoy, Chief Investment Officer, Office of the State Treasurer
  • Richard McPhail, Chief Financial Officer, Home Depot
  • Georgia House Rep. Clay Pirkle
  • Joe W. Rogers, III, Waffle House
  • Jessica Simmons, Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner
  • Jim Sprouse, Executive Director Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Will Wade, Georgia Student Finance Commission