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

Georgia Institute of Technology launches the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and its partners announce the launch of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (Georgia Smart). The effort is the first statewide program to support local governments across Georgia with seed funding, technical assistance, and more as they plan and activate smart development.

 

Georgia Smart seeks proposals in the areas of smart mobility and smart resilience. Each of the four winning teams will receive direct grant funding of up to $50,000, as well as additional funds for research and technical assistance with a required local match.

 

The grants are made possible through funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Power Co. Also supporting this effort are the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Centers for Innovation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Technology Association of Georgia.

 

Two of the winning teams will be from rural communities and the other two from more urban Georgia cities.

 

“We’ve spent the past year in workshops and dialogue with local governments across Georgia to better understand their challenges and priorities. From these communications, we developed a program that is sensitive to the local context while fast-tracking smart communities,” said Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech. “We aim to create more models for smart development that can be shared and applied across the state and beyond.”

 

The first program of its kind in the United States, Georgia Smart brings together an unprecedented coalition of university, industry, and public sector partners to support local governments’ adoption of cutting-edge technologies in their communities. The program is also unique in that it extends beyond large cities to smaller communities whose voices have not been as prominent in smart community development and who may not have access to technology resources.

 

The Georgia Smart initiative is open to all communities in Georgia. Local Georgia governments of any size — cities, counties, or consolidated city-county governments — will lead selected teams. Georgia Smart will provide seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice, and a network of peers. A Georgia Tech researcher will assist and advise each team and conduct research in support of the community’s needs and goals.

 

CEDR will provide strategic planning and facilitation assistance to the recipients of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge grants, and help those communities activate their smart community plans. For more information on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, please contact Leigh Hopkins, senior project manager with Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at 404.894.0933 or email email hidden; JavaScript is required.

 

Comprised of a dozen programs, including CEDR, EI2 is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development.

 

“This is a chance for communities — both urban and rural — to look at ways of moving their economies forward by focusing on ideas centered on innovation, transportation, and broadband infrastructure among other economic development opportunities,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking forward to working with the winning teams and help them develop their ideas.”

 

Georgia Tech and its partners will work with the winning teams throughout the year on implementing their proposals, creating four testbeds of smart community development. For more information on applying for the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, visit: http://smartcities.gatech.edu/georgia-smart.

What automation means for economic development

Karen Fite Automation GaMEP

GaMEP Director Karen Fite (standing), moderates the Automation Panel at the 51st Annual Basic Economic Development Course. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Automation.

 

The word and what it represents is driving a lot of discussion about what that means for manufacturers and for those in economic development tasked with bringing industry — and jobs — to their communities.

 

But automation is not the boogeyman people think it is, said Mark Ligler, vice president of Factory Automation Systems. The Atlanta-based company is a systems integration resource for many of the top manufacturers in the United States and supports them in programmable controller and drive systems, robot integration, and information solutions.

 

“Automation is not a job killer,” Ligler said. “It’s a job creator and it’s keeping people here employed.”

 

Ligler made his remarks as part of a panel discussion, “What Automation means for Your Community” at the 51st annual Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) held Feb. 27 through March 2.

 

The interactive professional development course is produced by the Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and offered in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). It provides seasoned economic development professionals and those new to the field with the core fundamentals of business attraction, workforce development, retention and expansion, and entrepreneur and small business challenges, as well as transformative trends in the industry.

 

Basic Economic Development Course

Sixty-five economic development professionals from across the country attended Georgia Tech’s Basic Economic Development Course at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center. (Photo: Special)

The 2018 BEDC theme — “Automation and Economic Development” — centered on how that is changing a number of industries and drove the panel discussions and other events for the 65 attendees who came from across the country.

 

“The research tells us that in roughly 60 percent of current occupations that at least a third of tasks performed in those jobs could be automated,” said Karen Fite, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

 

A federally funded program at Georgia Tech, GaMEP works with manufacturers in the state to increase their competitiveness and efficiency and boost productivity.

 

Fite, who moderated the panel, said the question for those in economic development and manufacturers is to understand how automation will affect business and industry and how to best prepare for the jobs and skills it will require.

 

It was a sentiment echoed by other panelists, which included Josh Benton, executive director of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development; Tom Sammon, a GaMEP project manager specializing on implementing Lean manufacturing practices and helping companies develop capital equipment applications, and John Fluker, president and chief sales officer of Grenzebach Corp. in Newnan, Ga.

 

“Automation, when you look at it from a longterm perspective, is all about competitiveness,” Fluker said.

 

“Competitiveness and demographics are driving automation,” he said, adding the technologies behind it are helping create a new landscape with jobs that demand new skills.

 

“It’s not a job killer,” he said. “It’s a skills changer.”

Georgia Tech marks 50 years of economic development education

BEDC 50th Anniversary SliderSince its inception in 1967, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) has prepared more than 3,100 economic developers from around the world for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) certification exam. The certification is considered an essential component of a career in economic development.

 

The BEDC, a joint offering of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and the Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), celebrates its 50th year in 2017. The initiative educates participants on the fundamentals and emerging concepts of comprehensive economic development. This 50th anniversary event being held from March 21 to March 24, focuses on economic resilience and building capacity for strong communities, features Rodrick Miller, CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) and economic resilience expert, as keynote speaker.

 

As part of the course, participants will explore 10 core economic development subject areas, ranging from marketing to ethics. They will also network with peers and learn about best practices from some of the nation’s leading economic development experts.

 

“Through the BEDC, participants have learned ways to create wealth for individuals, business and communities, and to promote economic well-being and an improved quality of life for their communities,” said Leigh Hopkins, BEDC course administrator. “Georgia Tech has equipped thousands of economic developers with the tools and skills needed to address problems such as unemployment, poor quality of life and post-disaster economic recovery.”

 

The BEDC is one of many professional development courses and certifications working professionals can take at GTPE. “As the lifelong learning arm of Georgia Tech, we have been serving the needs of adult learners for over a century by bringing innovative, impactful programs tailored to their needs,” said Nelson Baker, dean of GTPE.

 

In addition to the BEDC, economic developers can take other IEDC courses this April, June, August, and November at GTPE.

 

About Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE)

Georgia Tech Professional Education, an academic division of the Georgia Institute of Technology, offers professional development courses, certificate programs and master’s degrees in a variety of formats to meet the needs of working professionals and industry partners in STEM and business fields worldwide. We educate over 22,000 individual learners representing close to 3,000 companies annually. For more information, visit pe.gatech.edu.

 

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2)

The Enterprise Innovation Institute is Georgia Tech’s business outreach organization and serves as the primary vehicle to achieve Georgia Tech’s goal of expanded local, regional, and global outreach. Its core mission is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive. For more information, visit innovate.gatech.edu.

U.S. Commerce Secretary visits Northwest Georgia

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, (fifth from left) and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams (far left) were in Northwest Georgia on May 6 to visit several manufacturing facilities and discuss ways to build a skilled curriculum for the next generation working in a highly automated manufacturing environment and better engage parents and teachers to redefine manufacturing,

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, (fifth from left) and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams (far left) were in Northwest Georgia on May 6 to visit several manufacturing facilities and discuss ways to build a skilled curriculum for the next generation working in a highly automated manufacturing environment and better engage parents and teachers to redefine manufacturing. (Photo credit: Eric Beavers)

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams visited Northwest Georgia recently to tour the Engineered Floors facility and the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy.

They participated in a round table discussion with the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) Consortium, Floor360, and Communities That Work Partnership (CTWP) leaders from industry, workforce development and the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy.

The May 6 discussion centered on building a skilled curriculum for the next generation working in a highly automated manufacturing environment, better engagement of parents and teachers to redefine manufacturing, development of skilled pathways to manufacturing employment through apprenticeships, and the launch of the new Advanced Manufacturing and Business Academy (AMBA) at the College and Career Academy.

The IMCP program is one of the Commerce Department’s main initiatives to support job creation and accelerate manufacturing growth. The goal is to make communities more economically strong by transforming their industrial ecosystems into globally competitive manufacturing hubs. Georgia Tech, through its Center for Economic Development Research unit, partnered with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on advanced manufacturing in the carpet and flooring industries in the region.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration designated the Northwest Georgia region an IMCP “Manufacturing Community” in 2014.  This designation gives organizations that support the industry via the Northwest Georgia’s Advanced Manufacturing Strategy elevated status for certain federally aligned grant programs.

Throughout the IMCP initiative, the region has placed particular focus on workforce development issues.  As an outgrowth of IMCP, Northwest Georgia was selected to participate in the CTWP, a one-year joint project between EDA and the Aspen Institute. The CTWP was a competitive application process and the Northwest Georgia region won the selection following a competitive process against other applications across the country.

Each partnership/cohort consists of three to four individuals from organizations within their regions who are in a position to accelerate change to benefit businesses and workers through industry-led workforce development strategies, one of whom represents the voice of business.

The goal of CTWP is to accelerate and document promising, evidence-based best practices in regional collaboration for talent development that promotes growth and opportunity in the regional economy.

READ MORE on the Floor360 blog.