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campus were a team of local community champions including: Tonya Green Parker (Downtown Vidalia Association); Daphne Walker (Lyons Main Street); Jency Jeffers (Lyons Main Street and City of Lyons Zoning & Planning); Brian Frederick (Vidalia Downtown Development Authority); Ivette Torres Guzman (Greater Vidalia Chamber); and Heather Davis (entrepreneur).
As part of the first session, the cohort from Toombs County made a short presentation about the community. Accompanying the group were Vidalia Ambassador “Yumion,” as well as staff from the Greater Vidalia Chamber: Michele Johnson, President, Ann Owens, Director of Community Development, Debbie Evans Executive Vice President.
The cohort has been tasked with developing and implementing a targeted growth strategy for their local and regional economies. Later this year, communities will receive $5,000 in seed capital to kick-start their implementation efforts.
Through CREATE and other Rural initiatives, Georgia Power Community & Economic Development helps rural and small towns across Georgia plan for sustainable growth.
Scott Purvis with Georgia Power Community & Economic Development has been working with local communities for over 30 years and understands their challenges and opportunities. “Rural Georgia towns have a lot of assets that make them attractive to entrepreneurs and startups. One of the goals of the CREATE program is to help those communities catalog their assets and use them as a catalyst for growth.” Sarah Carnes, Business Recruitment Associate with Georgia Power Community & Economic Development, added, “For an entrepreneurial ecosystem to be effective, it’s essential to incorporate small business owners’ ideas, experiences, and vision into the communities’ strategies.”
In Georgia, over 2.3 million people call rural communities' home. Although small, these towns are packed with talented and passionate leaders working to ensure that their cities have a prominent place in Georgia's future. CREATE has an objective of amplifying their efforts. The CREATE Program is a cohort program developed in partnership between Georgia Power Company, Main Street America, and the University of Georgia Office of Public Service and Outreach.
This program is intended to provide communities with the technical assistance, seed capital, and guidance to: Identify the assets and gaps of their community’s entrepreneurial/ smal l business support system, including potential areas for investment. Understand the importance of a healthy entrepreneurial/ small business support system to local and regional economy and how these types of businesses can support long-term community and economic development goals (e.g., vibrant downtown, talent retention/attraction). Identify potential partners, resources, and funding sources to support project implementation.
Learn about best practices related to entrepreneurial/ small business support systems in other rural communities. Elevate the voices of existing entrepreneurs and small business owners.
These efforts will culminate in the creation and implementation of a targeted growth strategy and plan for local and regional economy, providing definitive next steps for supporting and attracting entrepreneurs and small businesses to the community.