Ecclesiastes 11:4: “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”
Welcome to the fifth issue of South Georgia Business + Culture Magazine. Two years ago, when I was developing the concept for this magazine, I traveled to different communities in South Georgia. I found people eager to talk about what was happening in their community; however, while there was a sense of excitement and pride, many people expressed a concern that no one was listening.
During a discussion with an economic development executive, he said, “South Georgia used to be called ‘the other Georgia’ and now we are just the ‘forgotten Georgia.’” His comment stayed with me. Are we the ‘forgotten Georgia’ or have we just remained silent because we think no one is listening?
Challenges are facing South Georgia, many of which are the same problems confronting rural communities across the U.S. From the financial struggles of rural hospitals to limited broadband service, the list of issues negatively impacting South Georgia’s ability to gain economic prominence may seem overwhelming, but there are solutions.
The struggles of rural Georgia have not gone unnoticed. Last year, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce established the Center for Rural Prosperity in Tifton. The center serves as a catalyst to improve economic issues in South Georgia. The Chamber also created a council that is working to identify unique challenges and define solutions that negatively impact rural communities. Council members are studying four key areas: rural incentives, defense communities, talent and leadership development, and homegrown entrepreneurship.
This year, rural Georgia received a boost from the General Assembly with the creation of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation. Gov. Nathan Deal also appointed Amy Carter, former state representative, as the deputy commissioner for rural Georgia at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In the newly created position, Carter will lead state efforts to help rural areas gain a more competitive economic advantage and identify new strategies for attracting jobs and investments outside the metro Atlanta region.
Now is the time to plant new ideas; however, we must not become discouraged if it takes years to harvest positive results.
The law of planting and harvesting is not only an agricultural concept but an idea that can serve as a roadmap for economic growth.
It has been said, “The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” As business and community leaders, it is time to plant the seeds even if the growth takes years.