MOULTRIE, Ga. — For the Moultrie Colquitt County Development Authority (MCCDA), 2020 marked a time for gathering insight and making plans for the future growth of Colquitt County. Eight community growth initiatives highlighted needs on topics ranging from workforce development and transportation, to education and branding.
“The nature of this past year allowed the Development Authority time to really analyze the needs of our county on many levels. By answering tough questions about what might be holding Colquitt County back, we can build a data-driven plan for moving forward,” said Barbara Grogan, MCCDA president.
In early 2020, the Development Authority partnered with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to conduct a housing and buying power survey. Major findings of the survey demonstrated a desire for more retail and dining establishments, as well as a need for more rental housing options. Survey results provide developers with valuable insight into the needs and wants of the local community.
“We are seeing an uptick in the data requests from housing developers and franchise restaurant developers,” Grogan said. “Being able to respond with up-to-date and credible data helps us match developers with opportunities.”
In another partnership with CVIOG, the MCCDA embarked on a community branding project designed to unite local municipalities and organizations while also telling the story of Colquitt County to visitors, developers, and future residents. After gathering feedback from citizens in a series of brainstorming sessions, one-on-one interviews, and an online survey, the CVIOG team presented an initial brand concept earlier this month. Once approved, the Development Authority has plans to release a series of industry recruitment videos and print collateral in the style of the new brand to help attract business and industry.
In April, the MCCDA received a $60,000 grant from the US Economic Development Administration which allowed the Joint Development Authority (JDA), a regional partnership of Brooks, Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Thomas counties, to launch a regional workforce pipeline survey. The project focused on industry and community engagement with cross participation among the K-12 and post-secondary institutions serving the region. More than 70 businesses in Colquitt County responded with detailed data. Preliminary findings of the project revealed current workforce trends and future skills needed to ensure the region continues to grow and thrive. The full report will be available this month.
Despite the overlay of the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with much of the collection period for the 2020 Census, the Development Authority joined many other local agencies in an effort to encourage census completion.
“For the next 10 years, the federal government will rely on the collected data to help guide distribution of approximately $1.5 trillion annually,” Grogan said. “We certainly want to do everything can to make sure Colquitt County gets our share of those economic development dollars.”
Industrial park enhancements also took a front seat in 2020 when the Development Authority Board approved upgrades to the Moultrie Regional Park (home to Sunbelt Ag Expo, Maule Air, Southern Powder Coating, Georgia Linens, and others) main entrance and directional signage, as well as landscaping improvements there and at Citizens Business Park (site of Sanderson Farms and two additional parcels for sale) off Highway 133. These enhancements began last year and will be completed by summer 2021.
Mid-year, focus shifted to education when Colquitt County Schools Superintendent Doug Howell announced his upcoming retirement. The Development Authority, in partnership with the Colquitt County School Board, engaged the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation’s community development division in a robust parent perspectives project. Data from a combination of surveys, interviews, and a series of public listening sessions reinforced the community’s prioritization of education and resulted in a multi-faceted plan to keep parents involved in the direction of local education.
Complimenting these discussions, the Colquitt County Educational Foundation was formed with support from the Development Authority and community leaders across many sectors. The Foundation aims to create a brighter future for Colquitt County, with the first initiative being an elementary literacy mentoring program. The Foundation is currently accepting applications for two key staff positions, as well as recruiting volunteers and donors. More information can be found at BrighterColquitt.org.
Looking toward the year ahead, and with the first phase of the Development Authority’s strategic planning completed by ACCG in December, Grogan said, “We have some exciting projects in store for 2021, and the solid local participation in our efforts last year really helps us focus on the priorities ahead.”
The full strategic plan will be presented mid-2021, and the Development Authority Board is already seeing many of the outcomes from last year’s initiatives already showing a strong correlation with the first phase of the plan.
“It means we’re on the right track,” Grogan said. “All in all, we’re just thankful to be a part of the efforts that are pushing our great county forward.”