Crawford native hopes to help her hometown grow

ROBERTA -- As Crawford County’s first full-time development authority director, Stacy Ladson knows the county’s turf, sometimes literally.

Just behind her laptop screen on her desk is a canning jar of Crawford County sand dated April 2, her second day on the job. The county’s high-quality sand has been one of the county’s best resources. Crawford County’s sand has been exported for more than a century and helped lure one of the county’s larger employers, Canadian-based Arriscraft International.

Ladson, a 25-year-old Crawford County native, said her goal is to get more jobs for her hometown.

“I felt it was a great opportunity to grow, as well as to grow the community that raised me,” she said.

Ladson left Crawford County for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton with an interest in veterinary science. She ultimately decided on a different major and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in rural studies with a focus on business and economic development. That got her back to Crawford County so she could commute about 75 miles a day to Forsyth, where she had been working as an executive assistant at Forsyth Main Street.

It was there that she became passionate about a smaller community. She worked on her networking skills to help a downtown area, and she learned more about how different businesses pull together support from different places -- as varied as a railroad and the Georgia Department of Corrections -- to improve the community.

Those experiences prepared her for the Crawford County job, she said. In her new job, she’s meeting with existing business owners, site scouts, other economic development officials and more. The full-time job has time for that, which Carol Jackson, the executive assistant and former acting director, could not do as a part-timer.

Ladson was encouraged to apply for the Crawford County post by an unlikely source: her boss at Forsyth Main Street, Loraine Khoury.

“We’re proud of her and behind her 100 percent,” Khoury said. “Talent needs to be rewarded, and she needs to be home.”