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Rural Innovation

How we're harvesting technology and growth in Georgia's rural communities

This time last year, Lt. Governor Duncan launched the Georgia Innovates Task Force, a team of community and business leaders challenged with positioning Georgia as the tech hub of the Southeast – or at least identifying the steps and investments needed to do just that. And challenged we were. For most of 2020, our team contributed to this work, bringing folks together to figure out how you can foster an “innovation ecosystem” in rural Georgia specifically. The Task Force culminated in the creation of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, an impressive public-private partnership that will fund projects of significant impact.

But we kept chewing on this idea – how can we better support rural Georgia in our line of business? We wanted to identify and implement three to five strategies during the next three years to make rural communities more competitive using the resources and services that we have in-house and provide now. So, here we are today – a year later – and excited to announce the “Rural Revival” program. Revival is a play on words. For the C&ED Team, we want to revive our rural communities. For those of you like me who grew up in a small town, you’re no stranger to summer revival – the renewing of your spirit and the rededication of beliefs. This program is designed to help “revive” our rural communities – and, most importantly, help build a brighter future for the 2.2 million people that call rural Georgia home.

The issues that rural communities face when it comes to being competitive are all intertwined. Whether it is economic development, education, healthcare, work force development, or services – all affect one another. These are some of the issues that our innovation strategy will address. There are three focus areas. One is the innovation ambassadors program, taken from the Lieutenant Governor's Innovates Task Force. The second is what we're calling our Rural Revival Program. This program is divided into entrepreneurship and small business, downtown development, and developing, a website with online resources. One of the disconnects is that there are a lot of amazing stories happening in rural areas that no one knows about. Part of the strategy is documenting and telling that story. The third area is our strategic partnerships. We're looking at making sure that the C&ED team and Georgia Power as a whole are plugged into those agencies and organizations that touch or influence rural Georgia. There is no single definition for rural. It's a way of life, and I don't think you can really capture that meaning because it's such an individual aspect. The reason why I like rural Georgia may be completely different than the next person. It's a matter of preference. It’s farming, quail hunting, an antique store in a downtown, less congestion, high school football, and so on.

I think there are benefits to a company moving to a rural area. Resources are in place to help your company grow and prosper. Your company, and you as an individual, can certainly become a part of a community, and make a real difference. You can influence how that community grows. You certainly have opportunities for participation in that community, whether it's through a civic club or through local government or through arts and culture. You are able to be hands-on and participate.

The bottom line is we must make rural communities more competitive, poised for growth, and to position them better for industrial recruitment, attracting talent to their community, and improving their quality of life. The way of life is a bit different. But that doesn't mean success and growth aren't possible in here, in fact it's just the opposite. Something big is growing in rural Georgia, the seeds are planted, and now we continue to work of sowing the seeds and looking forward to the harvest.