When Washington County leaders sought to improve the quality of health care in their rural Georgia community, they decided to go with homegrown expertise.

Working with Oconee Fall Line Technical College (OFLTC) in Sandersville and Darton State College in Albany, UGA’s Archway Partnership in Washington County put together a program to provide education to local licensed practical nurses and emergency medical technicians so that they could become registered nurses (RNs), which are in short supply across Georgia.

With OFLTC providing free space and Darton College providing the faculty, the program has graduated 188 students since 2010, 171 of them now certified RNs in Middle Georgia.

From re-educating citizens to revitalizing downtowns to recruiting new business and industry, UGA is helping Georgia grow and Georgians prosper.

“Our strategic plan calls on us to serve the citizens of the great state of Georgia by responding to their most pressing issues,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said last fall when he was formally sworn in. “There is none more important than creating knowledge, jobs and prosperity. The governor has made this a priority, and I have directed resources toward having a greater role in the state’s economic development.”

UGA commits resources to economic development through the work of its 400 public service faculty and academic faculty from 17 colleges and schools. Public service and outreach programs have an estimated annual statewide impact of nearly $345 million, supporting more than 4,400 jobs directly and indirectly. Outreach programs generate $35 million in external funding or about $2.18 for every public dollar received, a high return on investment. Last year UGA supported economic development programming in all 159 Georgia counties and more than 400 cities.

Just over a year ago, President Morehead established an Office of Economic Development in Atlanta, which is overseen by the Offices of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Research.

In that time, director Sean McMillan has worked closely with each office and with the private sector and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In June, McMillan joined a group of UGA faculty and staff for the Bio International Convention in San Diego. The convention brings together about 13,000 biotechnology industry professionals and representatives from the U.S. and around the globe.

Bioscience is a key industry for Georgia, with over 400 companies that employ more than 20,000, concentrated in Atlanta, Athens and Augusta. Georgia is also one of the fastest-growing states in bio-related employment, with over 2,400 jobs created within the last five years by newly recruited companies.

At the conference, academic faculty, including some of Georgia’s Eminent Scholars and public service professionals, had at least 15 prospect meetings during the event and numerous media briefings to showcase what the state and university have to offer.

Whether through downtown revitalization, marine extension, community-based leadership, or resources to support new small businesses, UGA has a responsibility to help Georgia thrive.

The Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a collaboration between the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Georgia Municipal Association and the UGA College of Environment and Design, is working in 10 Georgia communities to revitalize downtown business districts. Through a practicum established as a component of the program, cities are paired with budding landscape architects, who lend technical and design assistance to redevelopment efforts.

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC), with 17 offices statewide, last year worked with 4,300 small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs, helping launch more than 330 new businesses and obtain $78 million in start-up capital. Established businesses saw sales growth of 16.8 percent and employment growth of 13.5 percent in a still sluggish economy. SBDC assistance led to the creation of 2,261 new jobs.

UGA has established itself as a change agent for the state through programs and partnerships that build leaders, provide professional development for government officials and share resources to help communities solve critical issues, grow and prosper.

More than 22,000 government employees and officials attended training sessions offered through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government last year. The Institute also provides support to local governments seeking to attract business and industry, including economic impact studies, demographic projections and assistance with developing infrastructure.

The UGA Marine Extension Service/Sea Grant (MAREX) works in coastal Georgia to help communities plan for sustainable economic development. Working with the Institute of Government, MAREX partnered with Tybee Island to develop a plan to help the coastal community prepare for sea level rise, flooding and storm surge. The plan will guide Tybee officials over the next 50 years as environmental changes affect the community.