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Grady County could become a UGA Archway partner

Grady County is in the running for a partnership project with the University of Georgia that would give this community access to the expertise of the full university. Currently, the county benefits, through Cooperative Extension Service, from the resources of UGA’s colleges of agriculture and environmental science; forestry and natural resources; and family and consumer sciences. Archway Partnership would allow the county to also utilize, through a structured format, the resources of the rest of UGA’s colleges such as the colleges of business, public health, environment and design, etc.
Local individuals interested in learning more about Archway met with several of its representatives Tuesday at the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce. Archway’s stated purpose is to facilitate economic and community growth in its partner counties, and many of the Cairo and Grady County leaders attending the meeting are instrumental in making both economic development and government decisions.
There are also two other counties vying for the opportunity to become an Archway partner community, Decatur and Brooks counties. The Archway officials also held similar meetings in those locations this week. A decision on which county Archway selects as its newest partner may be announced in early June.
Archway already has partnerships in eight Georgia counties, Colquitt; Sumter; Pulaski; Glynn; Washington; Clayton; Whitfield; and Hart.   Colquitt County was Archway’s pilot community in 2005, and “graduates” from the program this year; the average commitment between Archway and counties is 3-5 years, according to Mel Garber, Archway director.
Over the last six years, Colquitt County has utilized Archway to gather data used to improve its wastewater facility; facilitate citizen committees to create land use plans; conduct a housing study; prepare a comprehensive business plan for its Arts Center; assist with 2010 Census participation; coordinate a yearly leadership summit between key government and economic development officials in the county; and create Healthy Colquitt Coalition, which has an early goal of tackling childhood obesity.
Such county projects are facilitated by a UGA faculty member who moves to the Archway community. Archway’s professionals bring together members of the county to decide the community’s most important issues, and those issues are boiled down to key projects that can best benefit the county.
There is a shared project cost between UGA and its partner communities; with communities contributing $25,000 during the initial year, and $50,000 subsequent years. “UGA provides facilities and staffing and facilitates the process for discovering and prioritizing community issues,” according to literature from UGA. That information also states, the local community “commits human and financial resources and invests in solving the community issues.”
Local leaders attending Tuesday’s meeting were Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham; Grady County Commissioners Al Ball and T.D. David; Grady General Hospital Administrator LaDon Toole; Matt McCaskill, 2011 chamber of commerce chairman; Chuck Thomas, Joint Development Authority; Tom Berry, Joint Development Authority; Cairo Finance Director Miriam Faircloth; Cairo High School Principal David McCurry; Ed Gravenstein, representing Southwest Georgia Technical College; Jennifer Majors, chamber executive vice president; and Don Clark and Deron Rehberg, both of Grady County’s Cooperative Extension Service. Archway representatives on hand were director Mel Garber, and coordinators of operations Sue Chapman and Matt Bishop.

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