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Across the nation, rural areas are facing challenges associated with shifts in demographic and economic trends. The most successful rural areas are those that are addressing their specific issues head-on. Clinch County is a rural county located in the southeastern part of Georgia with a population of approximately 6,800 people. Despite its small size, the county has an active and engaged development authority whose goal is straightforward — Grow Clinch. Over the past few years, the development authority has demonstrated its commitment to growing Clinch by hiring their first executive director and increasing their programming and activities. Using this momentum, the development authority requested a community assessment from Georgia Tech as part of EI2’s Economic Development Research Program (EDRP). The Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) developed a process to help Clinch County facilitate economic growth as effectively as possible.
At the onset of the project, CEDR conducted a review of existing documents, research reports, and work agendas relevant to Clinch County’s recent economic development initiatives, community planning, and visioning efforts. CEDR also gathered and analyzed secondary information on demographics, educational levels, housing characteristics, and income in an effort to understand the dynamics of Clinch County’s local economy. During the spring of 2016, CEDR’s economic development professionals traveled to Clinch County to conduct confidential one-on-one interviews with local stakeholders. CEDR staff also conducted confidential phone interviews with state and regional partners of Clinch County. Information collected in the local stakeholder and external partner interviews was synthesized to complete a SWOT analysis of Clinch County. Using findings from the SWOT analysis and secondary data collected, researchers identified and defined a group of industry segments for the county’s business attraction efforts.
Researchers provided recommendations to the Clinch County Development Authority (CCDA) derived from findings from the data collected, insights gained during the community and state partner interviews, and the target industry analysis. CEDR considered the following four characteristics as essential elements needed for inclusion in the recommendations:
- broad base of community support,
- data analysis pointing to existing gaps/needs,
- tied to long-term community goals, and
- impacts Clinch County’s economic development goal to “maintain a long-term sustainable and diverse economic base.”
Recommendations were grouped into seven overarching areas:
- workforce development,
- economic development product,
- support for existing business,
- cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in the community,
- partnerships, and
- targeted business attraction.
Though the goals of this research project did not include a strategic plan with implementation guidelines, the recommendations and actions offered will help to enhance and strengthen the work of the CCDA. The assessment concluded that the development authority would need to continue brainstorming and collaborating with local partners so that its programs and activities are instilled with local knowledge.
For project-related questions, contact:
Phone: 404-385-2053| Fax: 404-410-6910
The Center for Economic Development Research is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. Its core mission is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive.