Press Releases

Grant for EC2055

Grant from Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation Will Lay Foundation for Historic Preservation and Future Economic Development
Blakely, GA —The Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation has made a gift to Blakely and Early County, Georgia that will fund the first step in a long-term effort to protect its historic and cultural foundation and launch the groundwork for a prosperous economic future. The program, called 'Early County 2055', was initiated by the Rice Family to create a healthy business climate for the local community, enhance the quality of life for local residents, and sustain growth for the city of Blakely and its surroundings for future generations.

"Early County was a burgeoning community in the late 1800's," said Charles B. Rice, Sr., the director of the Rice Foundation. "Over the years it has experienced an economic decline primarily because of the changing national economic focus. The intent of this gift is not only to help the community preserve its assets — a charming, close knit southern community, great location, low cost of living and rich heritage, but also to enable them to merge its history with a viable economic future for growth and prosperity."

Charles Rice, the founder of Barton Protective Services Inc., an international security firm headquartered in Atlanta, GA, grew up in Blakely where his parents settled in the 1930's.

"My roots are in this community and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up in this area of Georgia. It is a wonderful place with a valuable heritage that we want to help preserve," Rice said. "The community provided a rich and prosperous life to my parents and served as an anchor for the development of my own personal and professional values."

Catherine Rice, the co-founder of the Rice Foundation, echoes those sentiments. "Blakely holds a special place in our hearts," she said. "The area gave our family its legacy and now we want to give something back to these wonderful people and great community."

Like many rural southern towns changes in the national economy have had a negative economic impact on Blakely and Early County over the years. The shift from a primarily agrarian system of small farms to a more diversified economic structure of farming combined with service and manufacturing has been slow, due in part to people migrating to jobs in larger cities. "As farms became more efficient the need for workers diminished. Population declines caused the economy of areas like Early County to wane," said Charles Rice. "Over the last few years, however, we are seeing an increase in some populations in rural areas around the country with people seeking lifestyle changes and professional opportunity."

In its preliminary planning stages, the 'Early County 2055' initiative will focus on raising the quality of life for current residents while developing a long-term vision and master plan for the future. The planning process, scheduled to get underway in early 2006, will be funded completely by the Rice Foundation and engineered by the Miami-based land planning and development advisory firm, PlaceMakers.