The History of EC2055

A story that will be told over and over again.
The history of Early County 2055 is a fascinating tale. The Early County 2055 Economic Revitalization Initiative began as a great idea, became a vision, and is, today, a compelling program that has the support of many constituencies and the momentum that will continue to propel it forward. It is a template for similar communities to use to build strong economic futures.

Background of the vision.
For a number of years, the economic foundation of Early County, and many similar areas in rural America, has been in decline. A shift from what was a healthy agrarian economy to a diversified structure that includes service and manufacturing was necessary.  But this was not enough to bring back the waning economy.  

When Atlanta businessman Charles B. Rice, who grew up in Blakely where his parents settled in the 1930s, recognized the depressed state of the area’s economy, he stepped forward and offered his support.  Through a grant from his Atlanta-based non-profit Foundation, Rice created Early County 2055, a unique and comprehensive 50-year economic development program, to help the community find solutions to the challenging economic problems they faced.

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The generosity of the Rice Foundation set the stage. The grant funded the first steps of what is today the economic development Master Plan for Early County.  In April 2006, nearly one thousand local citizens, led by the Miami-based planning and development advisory firm, PlaceMakers, participated in shaping a vision and long range economic development strategy for Early County. Opportunities designed to support the economic future of Early County were identified, recorded in a Master Plan of change, and are underway today. These include downtown restorations, construction of affordable housing, support for tourism initiatives and even movie-making.

The Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation provided a valuable foundation to the citizens of Early County.  Empowered by the generous grant from the Rice Foundation, the community has come together and seized the opportunity to revitalize their economy by creating a healthy business climate and enhanced quality of life for all citizens.

The Rice Foundation is dedicated to revitalizing communities, preserving historical landmarks, safeguarding natural resources, promoting cultural and spiritual heritage and, serving as a catalyst for collaboration with others for positive and sustainable change. Rice’s family legacy in Southwest Georgia is the basis for choosing Early County as the recipient of the EC2055 grant.