The first phase of a community and economic development planning project to help build a business plan for Macon-Bibb County was released Wednesday.
The competitive assessment portion of the project was led by Atlanta-based Market Street Services, a national community and economic development consulting firm. The assessment involved interviews and online surveys from the community and looking at data about our community to give us a snapshot of our strengths and weaknesses, said Robbo Hatcher, current chairman of the Macon Economic Development Commission and one of three chairmen of the steering committee overseeing the project.
It is clear from this assessment that Macon-Bibb has a number of valuable assets -- assets that are envied by many communities large and small -- but the ability of these assets to support community vitality and economic development is inhibited by a set of very serious challenges, according to the assessment. That being said, it is important to emphasize that Macon-Bibb is not alone; numerous communities across the South have encountered similar challenges of racial tension, troubled schools, and pervasive poverty, and they have succeeded in addressing these challenges and have emerged as stronger, more vibrant and highly competitive communities.
Public education was one of the most frequently cited challenges brought up by residents who participated in the study. Residents reported a divided education system along racial and socioeconomic lines.
One of the communitys most frequently cited strengths was its central location in the state, between the major markets of Atlanta and Savannah.
Hatcher said the steering committee, which also is led by Kathryn Dennis, president of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, and Cliffard Whitby, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, will be using the results of the competitive assessment for community development.
The next phase is going to be a target-industry analysis that will look at our community in the context of this assessment and in the context of our workforce and our location, Hatcher said. (It also will look at) what businesses would thrive here, what would be good businesses to start, what businesses to recruit, what businesses to grow, what will fit into our community well.
Then, there will be a phase to develop strategies, capitalize on the communitys strengths and elevate our challenges based on the competitive assessment, he said.
The last phase will look at ways to implement those strategies.
So, those are the four things and this was delivering that first part ... to involve the community at large in what were doing, Hatcher said.
The steering committee was not surprised by the results of the assessment, he said.
I took that to be very positive ... because we can go about fixing the things we are not good at and capitalizing on the things we are, Hatcher said. So it was received very well, because there were no surprises in there.