How to make a great place better: One Macon

December 8, 2013 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge ...”

-- Hosea 4:6

If only we had more jobs ... If only our education system were better ... If only our community looked like XYZ, we could be a thriving, vital community.

There is an effort by community partners -- business, education and not-for-profits -- to move us past “if only.” It’s ambitious and may be the first effort of its kind to seek a wide swath of input from every corner of the community. From the College Hill Corridor to the Urban Development Authority’s just-released planning effort to the numerous community organizations trying to bring out our best and slay some of the dragons that have terrorized us. “One Macon” is an attempt to move our community -- all of it -- forward.

In order to know where we want to go, it is often helpful to know where we are. A consulting group, Market Street Services, that has shepherded this process successfully in other communities, was brought in to assess how competitive we are compared to Columbus; Augusta; Clarksville, Tenn.; and Auburn-Opelika, Ala.

Why these cities? Those are just four of our competitors when it comes to attracting jobs. We are blessed with location, but this new effort also seeks to assess our social infrastructure. There are intangibles that make up our community and how attractive we are to others and ourselves.

The work has been divided into four phases, and while the 40-member steering committee has already conducted eight focus groups, interviewed multiple people and had 600 online survey participants, they want more. That’s where we come in. On Wednesday, Dec. 11, at noon, the One Macon steering committee will gather at Mercer University’s Willingham Auditorium. Everyone is invited to help shape the vision of what they want Macon to be and how to develop a plan that will get us there, measure successes and or failures, and create an inclusive community.

Back in the late 1990s, Georgia Power sponsored a Fantus study that said Macon and Bibb County could be attractive to distribution centers, aerospace and back office industries. Our economic development team went to work and attracted Kohl’s. In 2003 it was the second-largest new build-to-suit in the state. Bass Pro added a 625,000-square-foot distribution/retail area in 2006. Sara Lee (now Hillshire Brands) would follow with a 214,000-square-foot distribution center and Tractor Supply with its almost 1 million-square-foot distribution center opened earlier this year.

Area leaders followed what was called the Macon Now plan and had measurable success. While the Fantus study and the Macon Now plan emphasized economic development, the Macon One strategy will reach deeper, encompassing all aspects of our community, to expand on what makes our area a great place to live, and how we can make it better.

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