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    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.

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    Georgia Tech EDA University Center Study Leads to Federal Grant for Valdosta Business Incubator
    Downtown Valdosta

    Valdosta, Georgia.

    U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce to fund the construction of a new business incubator in that South Georgia community. The EDA grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $1.7 million in local funds.

     

    It is expected to help create up to 81 jobs and generate $9.7 million in private investment.

     

    “The Trump Administration is committed to the resilience of local economies by encouraging companies to grow in designated opportunity zones,” Ross said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing how the new Valdosta Area Business Incubator will help a wide variety of businesses prosper in the region.”

     

    The announcement follows a four-month analysis conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center in 2015 and 2016.

     

    Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, these university centers marshal the resources found in colleges and universities to support regional economic development strategies in areas facing chronic and acute economic distress.

     

    The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce contracted with Tech’s EDA University Center to conduct a community readiness assessment as the first step in pursuing its goal of a sustainable business incubation program. The chamber paid for a portion of the analysis and the Georgia Tech EDA University Center covered the remainder.

     

    Business incubation provides entrepreneurs with an array of targeted business support resources and services in an effort to accelerate the successful development of startup companies.

     

    But the development of a business incubation program requires a detailed plan of action that identifies the critical resources needed for success, provides a blueprint for its management, staffing, and how it will be funded and operated.

     

    During the October 2015 – January 2016 timeframe, the Georgia Tech team conducted primary and secondary research to address three core areas of incubation strategy development: entrepreneurship and innovation, community and stakeholder support and resources and capabilities.

     

    “We concluded that there was a demand and justification for a business incubation program and that the community should move forward with plans to develop it,” said Juli Golemi, senior project manager with Tech’s EDA University Center. “We provided the chamber with an analysis of the state of the ecosystem and identified several strategic initiatives for the organization to pursue to develop it.”

     

    Golemi and her team identified 19 components, including strong and increasing entrepreneurial activity, existing infrastructure, academic institutions, and Moody Air Force Base, that made the idea a viable one.

     

    The U.S. Commerce Department’s funding announcement covers a designated Opportunity Zone, as designated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide.

     

    The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC). EDA funds the SGRC to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

     

    Georgia Tech has been an EDA award recipient since the program’s inception in the 1980s — the only institute of higher learning with that distinction.

     

    Tech’s EDA University Center’s mission is to support and lead activities designed to promote job creation, the development of high-skilled regional talent pools, business expansion in innovation clusters, and to create and nurture regional economic ecosystems in Georgia. In addition, the center conducts technology-related economic and policy research that will enhance Georgia’s competitive position.

     

    In fiscal year 2019, Tech’s EDA University Center’s work helped save or create 38 jobs and led to private sector investment of $5.8 million in Georgia.

     

    The Georgia Tech EDA University Center is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which is Tech’s economic development and outreach arm.

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    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
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    Delegates from Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech Meet with Congressional Leaders on Capitol Hill

    Tim Israel, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, in Washington, D.C. for the 2020 "Hill Day" at the U.S. Capitol.

    The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) convened with members of the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) during its annual “Hill Day” in Washington, D.C.

     

    The two-day event, held on March 3 and 4, was an opportunity for ASMC members and their manufacturing clients to meet with their respective Congressional delegation and educate them about the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program during the annual appropriations process.

     

    The MEP National Network works with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers through designated MEP Centers, including the GaMEP at Georgia Tech. They are charged with assisting manufacturing clients to help them, to help create and retain jobs, increase profits, and promote innovation and growth for the future.

     

    The intent behind Hill Day is to call attention to the importance of small and medium-sized manufacturers’ effect on rebuilding the economy.  By showcasing the achievements of this sector to elected officials, ASMC members are able to demonstrate a return on investment of the federal funding generated through the MEP program.

     

    “As a part of the MEP National Network, the GaMEP works with manufacturers throughout the state offering solution-based approaches to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have a unique responsibility to boost Georgia’s economy by enhancing our clients’ competitiveness. I was excited to share these results with our congressional leaders so they can see our key successes this past year.”

     

    In Georgia, the GaMEP worked with more than 700 manufacturers across the state to increase manufacturing sales by $317 million, reduce clients' operating costs by $121 million, invest more than $159 million back into their plants, and create or retain 2,074 jobs.

     

    As a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the MEP offers its clients resources centered on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce, and continuous improvement. In 2019, MEP generated a 14.4:1 return on investment, according to an Upjohn Institute for Employment Research study.

     

    Nationally, in 2019, MEP clients reported $15.7 billion new and retained sales and the creation or retention of 114,650 jobs. Considering that the average U.S. manufacturing worker earns more than $87,185 in wages and benefits per year, MEP clients are economic drivers in their communities. MEP clients are also increasing their capacity for the production of goods. MEP clients reported $4.5 billion in new investments directly attributed to their work with MEP.

     

    “The MEP National Network continues to significantly improve the productivity and competitiveness of America’s small and mid-sized manufacturers,” said Dave Boulay, ASMC board chairman and president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.  “Hill Day provides us an opportunity to showcase those impacts to our congressional representatives and allow our clients to share their stories directly.”

     

    About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
    The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in nine regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost. For more information, visit: gamep.org.

    About the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC)
    The American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) is a trade association of manufacturing extension centers that work to improve the innovation and productivity of America’s manufacturing community. ASMC advocates for legislative and programmatic resources that allow our small manufacturing clients to better compete in the global marketplace. The Coalition and its members do this by increasing awareness of the importance of American small manufacturers, the challenges which they face, and the federal legislation and programs that affect them. Learn more by visiting smallmanufacturers.org.

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    Safety, Health, and Environmental Services team discusses workplace safety at Georgia Capitol

    From left: Bob Hendry, SHES research scientist and treasurer of the AIHA's Georgia chapter; Jenny Houlroyd, SHES senior research scientist; Hilarie Warren, SHES senior research scientist and AIHA Georgia chapter president; Gov. Brian Kemp; and Georgia AIHA members John Moore, Stacey Brooks, and Kerry Ann Jaggassar.

    The Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) group at Georgia Tech met with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and key Georgia legislators at the Capitol to highlight efforts in workplace safety and other issues related to health at places of employment.

     

    The Feb. 18 breakfast "meet and greet" included state Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta), chairman of the public safety committee; Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Athens), chairman of its economic development committee, and state Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), chairman of the Georgia House Small Business Development Committee, among others.

     

    A program of Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, SHES provides broad range of occupational safety and health training, consulting services, and academic education to organizations in Georgia and across the Southeast.

     

    "These meetings and talks with our state leaders was a great opportunity to speak with key legislators and committee chairs about the importance of promoting health and safety policies and programs that protect employees in their workplaces in our state," said Hilarie S. Warren, SHES' senior  research scientist and industrial hygienist.

    Hilarie Warren (far right), SHES senior research scientist and AIHA Georgia chapter president, speaks with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (center) about health and safety issues and initiatives in Georgia.

     

    Warren, is president of the Georgia Local Section of American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), which facilitated the meetings at the Gold Dome.

     

    For example, Jenny Houlroyd, SHES' occupational health group manager, updated legislators on her work with the Sustainable Workforce Alliance. That project is focused on giving the tools and training and access to training resources to help protect the health and safety of youth workers and educators in career/technical education programs throughout Georgia.

     

    The Sustainable Workforce Alliance aims to highlight and address exposure risks of youth workers to prevalent hazards in the construction and general industries. The initiative also provides an understanding of worker's rights and employers' responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

     

    Warren said they also highlighted Atlanta serving as host to the national organization's three-day conference that starts June 1, 2020.

     

     

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