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EC2055 Presents Economic Revitalization to State Legislators

Early County 2055 Presents Southwest Georgia Economic Revitalization Plans to Group of State Legislators and Department Representatives

Atlanta — More than 100 distinguished leaders from the Georgia State Legislature, various state administrative departments and influential businesses attended a recent briefing and luncheon to learn about the unique opportunities for growth and expansion in Early County.  The luncheon, held at the Commerce Club in Atlanta, was hosted by Georgia State Senator John Bulloch, Georgia State Representative Gerald Greene, the Blakely/ Early County Chamber of Commerce and Early County 2055 an economic revitalization project funded by the Atlanta-based Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation.

The group was presented with an overview of Early County 2055 (EC2055), an effort that is underway that will help preserve Blakely and Early County's valuable history and culture, while building the framework for a diversified economic structure and strategy in the coming years.  The mission of Early County 2055 is to sustain the EC2055 fifty-year vision, to fund the long-term effort to protect the area's foundation and to build and maintain a prosperous economic future.

"We asked these influential and involved Georgians to join us so we could introduce them to the revitalization work that is presently underway and planned for this area of Southwest Georgia.  We wanted to thank them for their support and encourage them to continue to help us make this dream for Early County a reality," said Barton Rice, the executive director of Early County 2055.

Guests attending the luncheon included: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Honorable Glenn Richardson, Speaker of the House; Honorable Jack Hill, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee; Honorable Russ Tolleson, Chairman, Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Honorable Jeff Mullis, Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee; Honorable Vance Smith, Jr., Chairman, House Transportation Committee; Honorable Lynn R. Smith, Chair, House Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Dr. Louis Sullivan, President Emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine; Dr. Carl Patton, President, Georgia State University;
Billy Payne, Chairman, Augusta National Golf Club; Tommy Irvin, GA Commissioner of Agriculture; Paul Burkhalter, Deputy Commissioner, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Dr. Ray Luce, Director, Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Billy Langdale, GA DOT Board Member, 2nd Congressional District; and Steven Meeks, State Director, US Senator Saxby Chambliss.

Senator Chambliss, though unable to attend, expressed his support and thanked the supporters of Early County 2055.  "This comprehensive platform for sustainable and quality economic growth will succeed through the combined efforts of Early County 2055 and its supporters," he said. "Your model will serve Southwest Georgia, indeed, all of Georgia, and our nation as a beacon as to how a pubic-private collaborative can succeed."  

The 'Early County 2055' program kicked off a year ago with several planning events that involved the entire community. The Rice Foundation originated and funded the initial planning process with a gift to the county -- setting the stage for creating a
healthy business climate for the area.

According to Charles B. Rice, Sr., whose family legacy is in Blakely and Early County, the grant gives the community the tools to go forward.  "The key to success belongs to the residents of Early County," he said.  "We have thrown the pebble in the water.  The ripple has begun. Our mission is to lay the groundwork for future funding through private, public and business support.  It is local community leadership and working committees who will make the plan a reality by recruiting investment to the area, procuring state and federal grants and enlisting the help of the state university systems."

The featured speaker at the luncheon, Nathan Norris, a principal with PlaceMakers, LLC, an internationally known Miami-based land planning and development advisory firm that developed the Master Plan for the project, outlined the goals and ideas included in the plan, and urged the group "to think of ways to assist in helping Early County realize her prosperous future".

"So many towns in Southwest Georgia don't have this opportunity," he said. "Early County 2055 can serve as a model of intelligent economic growth in Southwest Georgia.  They need your help to continue the momentum that the initial grant began."  

Barton Rice said in 2007, dubbed "the year of fundraising," all available avenues are being used to begin raising the money needed for Early County to fund its dreams.  

"Early County 2055, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization that has been established to collect funds and provide tax benefits to its donors.  Local grant writers have been employed to target specific projects within the master plan.  We are soliciting contributions from foundations all over the United States," Rice told the group.  "We are proud to have strong relationships with legislators and government officials at the State and Federal level.  We are seeking a true public/private partnership".

Specific economic opportunities that have been identified in the near-term for Early County are revitalization of the courthouse square in Blakely, building affordable workforce housing in several county locations, and attracting the film and television industry to the area.

The Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation, based in Atlanta, GA, is dedicated to revitalizing communities, preserving historical landmarks, safeguarding natural resources, promoting cultural and spiritual heritage and serving as a catalyst for collaboration with others for positive and sustainable change in our community. For further information, click here.