As one of the eight UGA Archway Partnership™ communities, Pulaski County has a close connection to the University of Georgia and its mission to serve and provide resources to help communities thrive. Most recently, the community is focusing on economic development through a unique program called PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) from the UGA Vinson Institute of Government.
Through Archway’s coordination, UGA students and faculty from the College of Engineering, the College of Environment and Design, and the UGA Institute of Government contributed to the work that makes downtown Hawkinsville look noticeably livelier and more welcoming. Many of the historic buildings in the area are seeing renovations for the first time in decades. With a redevelopment of Commerce Street, a new City Hall and a planned redevelopment for the riverfront parks area, the Pulaski County seat is seeing new opportunities.
Now, residents have turned their attention to a long-term economic development strategic plan to ensure opportunity and activity are there for future generations.
The location along Golden Isles Parkway and proximity to Macon create a bright future for Hawkinsville and Pulaski County. They want to maximize opportunities, as well as plan for growth without changing the character of their historic community.
“We recognized the need to not only work on improving our community each day, but we wanted to be sure and look years down the road to be able to improve the community for long-term,” said Jenna Mashburn, Pulaski County Sole Commissioner. “PROPEL is helping us to come together across the county and think about how we make sure there are opportunities here for our kids and grandkids.”
Community leaders and volunteers are gathering citizen input from business owners and other community stakeholders. The Institute of Government also is assisting in the analysis of economic and labor market data to inform strategy development.
Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant with additional support from the UGA Foundation, PROPEL kicked off last year with a workshop in Tifton. UGA Public Service and Outreach faculty from the Institute of Government, Archway, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development and the Small Business Development Center were all on hand to provide expertise and help facilitate networking among the representatives from Appling, Grady, Washington and Pulaski counties, as well as the Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (made up of Clay, Quitman, Randolph and Stewart counties).
The Pulaski County steering committee is made up of local citizens, business owners, and community leaders. They are currently focused on educating small businesses about rural zone opportunities, day tourism and a local career fair. Many events are already planned for this year, including Street Eats downtown, Second Saturdays and a career prep day at Hawkinsville High School in April.
“The mission of Pulaski County Schools is to provide quality educational experiences that are meaningful, challenging, and engaging in a safe and supportive environment for all students,” said Debbie Puckett, superintendent of Pulaski County Schools. ”Our students are the future of this community. We want to offer them every resource and opportunity available to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to contribute to the overall success of our community. Collaboration with PROPEL through the Archway Partnership is one way that we can achieve that and we are very fortunate for the opportunity.”
Over the course of the next year, with assistance from Pulaski County Archway Professional Sherrié Raleigh, the Institute of Government will continue to focus on implementation of the citizen-created action plan in targeted areas to drive economic development and community development to support Pulaski’s vision for its future.