In the News

Early County Atlanta Luncheon

Early County Atlanta Luncheon
The Commerce Club in Atlanta, Georgia, was the setting for the fourth annual Early County/Atlanta Luncheon hosted by Senator John Bulloch, State Representative Gerald Greene and Early County 2055, and sponsored by the Advancing Early Initiative 2012. The event, held on March 2, 2010, was attended by approximately 108 state department heads, key legislators, Early County leaders and other special guests.

The purpose of the luncheon was to inform key members of state government of the unique and positive opportunities for growth and expansion within Early County; to express appreciation to selected state officials for their past support of Early County; to provide a format for the personal exchange of ideas regarding important issues to Early County; and to establish and solidify relationships between local constituents and state officials.

The Honorable David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, addressed the group on the importance of partnerships. Barton Rice, Executive Director of Early County 2055, updated the audience on the beginnings of the Early County 2055 project. He reviewed the history of EC2055, and the groundwork for the project, which was funded through the Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation. Lisa Collins, CEcD, Director of Economic Development for Early County 2055, spoke to the group on "The Success of Partnerships." She reported that the community is working with state and federal officials to make measurable progress through their collective commitment to revitalize Early County. Collins stated that since its inception in 2006, the Early County 2055 Economic Revitalization Initiative has moved from a great idea to a compelling program that is surpassing its goals, attracting support from its many constituencies, and being referred to as a model for similar communities looking to improve their economic future.

Collins reported 2009 highlights as follows:

  • Over the last 18 months, the City of Blakely and the Rice family have demolished over 125 dilapidated and substandard dwellings.
  • EMC Engineering Services, Inc. was recently chosen as the consultant for Blakely's East Gateway project, an aesthetically pleasing entrance into the city at the intersection of the US 27 bypass and State Highway 62. Phase I of the project will be completed using Georgia DOT Transportation Enhancement funds. When completed, the Gateway will draw travelers off the bypass into the charming downtown Court Square of Blakely, thereby creating additional revenue for the city.
  • Early County completed a comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Formulated by Jay Garner, President of Garner Economics, LLC, Atlanta, GA, the strategy provides quantifiable and measurable objectives for the future. In particular, the Economic Development Strategy addresses five (5) specific industry targets including food manufacturing, bio-fuel manufacturing and call centers. Other components of the Economic Development Strategy include workforce development recommendations based on industry targets; entrepreneurial/small business development; existing industry support; and product improvement needs and initiatives for Early County to sustain or grow a competitive advantage.
  • A second grocery store, the Piggly Wiggly of Blakely, opened for business on June 29, 2009. 52 new jobs were created, bringing $450,000 more in personal income per year. These jobs bring $250,000 in new bank deposits per year, an additional $280,000 in retail sales per year, and a projected additional sales tax of $500,000 over the next three years for Early County. The rehabilitation of the empty "big box" on North Main has now become the anchor tenant for revitalization of the North Main area surrounding Blakely Court Square.

Ric Hall, Mayor of Blakely, closed out the meeting by thanking the special guests in attendance for working together with Early County to make ideas and visions a reality. He asked for continued support as Early County moves forward in pursuit of economic development goals and improved quality of life for all citizens.

Key legislators attending the luncheon were: Speaker of the GA House of Representatives, David Ralston; GA Secretary of State, Brian Kemp; State Senator John Bulloch; GA Senate President Pro Tempore, Tommie Williams; State Senator Ross Tolleson, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee; State Representative Gerald Greene; State Representative Austin Scott; State Representative Jay Powell; Vance Smith, Commissioner, GA Department of Transportation; Mike Beatty, Commissioner, GA Department of Community Affairs; Donnie Thomas, GA Director, US Department of Agriculture; Todd Long, Planning Director, GA Department of Transportation; Johnny Floyd, Board Member, GA Department of Transportation; Brent Dykes, GA Soil and Water Conservation Commission; Bill Thompson, Deputy Commissioner, GA Department of Economic Development; Daryl Ingram, Vice-President, Electric Cities of GA, Inc.; Dr. Louis Sullivan, President Emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine; Dr. Walter Sullivan; David Roland, President of the National Health Museum; Steven Meeks, US Senator Saxby Chambliss' office; Tricia Chastain, US Senator Johnny Isakson's office; Jamey Crozier, US Congressman Sanford Bishop's office; and John Stacy, US Congressman Lynn Westmoreland's office.